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Adventures of a White Liberal

It would be hard to trace where it started, so I’m going to pick it up in the middle, with Travis. I first saw Travis at an open mic, a pale millennial beatnik seething Ginsberg-esque poems out of a marbled black-and-white composition book– outraged, images tumbling over each other in their rush to call out America in decay.

And I guess I’d also have to start with Marc, who is my FB friend, though I’ve never met him, and I can’t even tell you how I first heard of him. But I woke up one morning to a furious FB argument, featuring him and Travis, about nonviolence. Travis was 100% for it (nonviolence), and Marc, being black and gay and not up for being preached into masochistic civil rights sainthood by Travis, was somewhere less than 100%. I’d been reading all about being a White Ally, so I decided that here was my very first assignment. The argument continued most of the day, with many participants, lots of whitesplaining and lots of the verbal equivalent of tearing out of hair from sheer frustration, but in the end Travis apologized and dissolved into a puddle of guilt. Drying white tears is part of the ally job, so I messaged to see if he was okay and we chatted.

Then on one of my many nights of insomnia, he turned up on Messenger again. He was also awake, in spite of determined efforts to self-soothe by whacking off, so we talked about how that was working for him. I did mention that the last time I’d had such a chat, it turned out the caller was whacking off during the conversation, and I just wanted to clarify the nature of this exchange, but that being cleared up, we continued these late night talks, mostly about masturbation, but other things, too.

It turned out that Travis was hosting his own poetry event, and I thought I would go.

Well, the theme of the evening was anti-Trump poetry, generated by coupling American iconic imagery with porn and potty talk. Now I’ve been to a lot of open mics recently, and felt more than a little bummed that my own deeply introspective, wicca-feminist-tend-your-garden-love-the-earth-listen-to-the-goddess imitation-celtic rhymy-rhymy material lacked, oh, vitality?, compared to spoken word, but I don’t talk the way those poets talk, and I’m not going to try to fake it. But now as I’m listening to these young white guy protest poets, I’m thinking, shit, I can do this– maybe something like this for the next event:

Lady Liberty,

her engorged tits taped shut

by the Appropriations Committee–

no milk for the tired and wretched,

and her green copper thighs closed

to the huddled masses surging for entry,

still whores for guns,

pees on the presidential mattress

and wears on her face the cum of a thousand paeons

of the Military Industrial Complex ….

It’s a start.

Travis’s open mic was my second all-white political small group event, the first being the fledgling local MoveOn.org house group, led by two guys who impressed upon us how much danger we were all in by the mere fact of being in their subversive Rocky Ripple lair. Angela Davis, move over. They wanted our consent before they took any pictures, just in case our identities might get out, and we were given the option of only using our first names—options taken by women attendees who feared for their jobs. These social justice warriors had already achieved such notoriety for their activist risk taking that they might at any time be under surveillance (good thing they told us, because I’d never heard of either one). The rest of the group, all women, served tea and sat at the feet of the masters.

Well persecution has its excitement, but no-one-gives-a-shit-what-we-do seemed to me the likeliest outcome of the meeting. And when one woman said we should elect more women to office, and Mr. Activist said that was sexist, I was done.

The third event was an ally training, all women except for two guys with the telltale chinstrap beard of the formerly misgendered, and all but one white– a way of putting it that, as I reread it, makes the lone black woman there an absence rather than a presence; the non-white. Well, – “well” being, I guess, her one-word ticket back to the place of absence so I can get back to being the center of the story– I think I made myself annoying by talking too much (which happens if I talk at all), and probably too stridently, since I’ve noticed that everyone says women should be confident and assertive, but no one seems much to like it when they are– or at least when I am. Maybe it’s all in how you do it.

At any rate, discussing the pros and cons of social media, I opined that in one way, seeing so many FB exchanges had helped me to realize that some people were not going to change; did not want to change; and did not want to hear evidence that might threaten them with change– this recognition being the fruit of weary years of being mansplained to, having to marshall my evidence, keep a cool head and a civil tongue, while striving to convert the enemy becomes the substitute for living my life.

They were so nice. Their comments were so gentle. And so directed anywhere but to me. Soft-voiced, silky haired, beret-ed and long skirted young things, reviving in me an old pain that maybe connects to why Marcus (remember my FB friend Marcus?) didn’t want to rule out violence. Finally, a truth solid as concrete, no, as steel, something to build on– that I don’t have to persuade people who have no stake in my freedom– disappeared, enveloped in cotton candy. We need, these ladies agreed, to listen respectfully to all points of view; maybe a few extreme people, like white supremacists, were beyond reach, but if you approached most people with love– if your stance was “I’m educating you because I love you”– that was the way to have an impact.

Which left me thinking maybe, as a preliminary hypothesis, I could say liberal white privilege means that if you’re male, you think you can change the world by being really pissed off, and if you’re female, you believe that if you’re just nice enough, you can bring anyone around.

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