6 October, 2012

One Evening in Lower Merion

Was the debate upsetting? Hell yeah and for a number of reasons, including the fact that my twitter account suddenly froze me out for having more than 1000 tweets – not possible! Mostly, it had to do with expectation. I expected the Prez to wipe the floor with the skanky scum-bucket that has risen to the top of the Republican ticket, this varmin who produces in me the same reaction I have when I walk into a public toilet (very very rare), at a rest-stop on the highway on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, open the door to a stall and see all that has been left behind by a humanoid fleeing the evidence of their diarrhoea.

Expectation. Kills our spirits everytime. Because expectation is based on ignoring a whole lot of information and signals we’d rather forget exist. Like the fact that a Black man (or woman) cannot get angry, a phenomenon both acknowledged and eviscerated by D. W. Mason in her article, “I’m Angry. I Can’t Get Angry.” C’est vrai. I can’t speak for the president, but I can speak for myself. I’ve been in those shoes. Like when the woman at the laundry refuses to return a pair of pants I’d asked to be hemmed and I repeat her words, “You aren’t going to give me back my own pants?” in sheer bafflement and she runs quaking to the back of the shop, grabs the pants and shoves them at me as though I had threatened extreme violence; arson, perhaps, or a laundry-house bloodbath. You don’t think these things happen unless you don’t happen to look like I do. And we all forget – particularly those of us with our educated affectations – that things have not changed a whole heck of a lot for any of us. Yes, not even if you are President.

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Last evening I took a walk in the neighborhood. Upperclass, most White, mostly wealthy Lower Merion Township. I was walking with a friend by a little park which sits by the Merion railway station. With us were four children. They were playing flashlight tag in deference to the lack of light – it was about 7.30pm. It didn’t take too long for not one but two police cars to pull up. Apparently, the people across the street complained about “noise.” My friend and I came running up as the first squad car stopped, to explain that these were our children, they were with us. To be fair, the police officer found it utterly ludicrous that people would have a problem with “children playing on a friday evening.” He described those who had called him as cranky people. But what struck me is that, for the entire time that he stood there, he made no eye-contact with me. None. When he asked for our names and addresses (asked her, for us both), and I volunteered to give mine since it was my neighborhood, he continued to look at her and say, irritably, “well, whose children are these?” “Ours,” she said, “both of us.” I gave him my name and address and telephone number, and he talked a while longer – along with his fellow officer who showed up in the second car – but there was no recognition that there were two women standing there. Two human beings. To this man there was one and she was white and visible and I was not and did not matter.

Perhaps things have changed for children growing up in a world where the very idea of a single ethnic strain in ones lineage is, quite possibly, fantasy. But there are a whole lot of adults for whom nothing has changed. And it is the adults who will be voting. Think it is “dumb” or “difficult” to believe that people will buy the lies coming out of that Republican white man’s mouth? Think again. It isn’t that hard when you don’t want to believe the Black man next to him deserves to exist. Right after the RNC convention there was a poster that did the rounds on Facebook. If someone can find it, please post it here. The text said something along these lines: “The Republican Party: An old white man talking to an imaginary Black man.” Sadly it’s not just the Republicans. And it is not just to an imaginary president. I have not asked my friend if she noticed what happened. For all the usual reasons. I’m pretty certain that our combined outrage at the curmudgeons who peered at us through their bay windows (along with their children!), is nothing compared to the anger and despair I felt at channeling Ralph Ellison.

I am an invisible man.
No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe;
nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.
I am a man of substance, flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind.
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.
When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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