A Dispatch from 2020

I’m old enough to remember a few months ago when it seemed like the biggest controversy out there was The Rise of Skywalker’s low Rotten Tomatoes score.

On August 30, that is not the only item of old news that comes off as quaint, the realm of the dilettante.  2020 seems determined to outdo any year in our lifetime when it comes to events to wake you up at night in cold sweats and keep you shaking the entire day long.  Tune into any cable news feed or social media channel and it feels not only like civilization is unraveling, but a healthy portion of our fellow citizens seem keen on cheering its demise – perhaps thinking, somehow, that they will be on the side of Immortan Joe in the Mad Max-like future they are craving.  That there are far more of us than them is immaterial; like a fire stoked by a constant stream of gasoline they continue to consume the oxygen and spew out the noxious fumes of hopelessness and despair, choking us out.

What is so frustrating about it all is that none of it had to happen.  COVID-19 could have been stamped out before it escaped across the world; the disgrace of a cop could have left George Floyd alone to go home to his daughter.  Onwards and onwards.  I’m reminded of too many science fiction stories where an alien race describes humanity as inherently self-destructive.  What are we to make of this phase of our evolution; are we a petulant teenager having a tantrum and breaking all our toys?  At some point do we get control of raging hormones and start looking forward to how we can make the future better?

I mention The Rise of Skywalker up top because it’s the last thing I wrote about on this site about a year ago.  Since then I have retreated and merely watched.  I have given a lot of thought to this over the course of this past year and questioned why.  There have been plenty of occasions where I have wanted to say something and even more occasions where I have talked myself out of it.  The chief reason is because I have told myself that the world does not need to hear from another straight white man.  I am a creature of inherent privilege who has never had to endure the kind of struggles that BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people have.  There are enough of people like me out there writing op-eds and blog posts about how outraged they are that the system that birthed and nourished them is finally cracking apart, and wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just go back to worrying about who got the rose on the latest episode of The Bachelor.

We have left that more innocent world behind forever, and it is a good thing, though so many lives need not have been lost to turn that page.  Now our eyes are wide open to how our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are treated.  We are living in their world now.  We can’t just watch a documentary or read a book and shake our heads and say “it’s such a shame” and then flip over to the sports section and save our deepest outrage for the Leafs being unable to score in overtime.  We cannot put on a mask to go buy our groceries without remembering the hundreds of thousands of people who were here this time last year and now are gone because the world as it was was not equipped to manage a microscopic little bug.  We have swept too much under the carpet for far too long, and we have no business being upset because the carpet can’t contain it anymore.  The invoice has come due, the interest penalties are exorbitant, the collection agency is calling night and day.  We can’t get out of this abyss by disconnecting the phone.

Shame on us creatures of privilege for letting things get this far.  For not showing up because it didn’t affect us directly.  For refusing to acknowledge how much we benefit from the system that grinds down our fellow human beings.  For reclining back on our couches in front of our 75” TVs and shaking our heads at all the injustice in the world before pausing the PVR to go grab another beer.  For helping to nourish and encourage the system whose inevitable flaws are now threatening to unleash the dystopia we’ve been warned about for a hundred years.

I haven’t said enough.  I haven’t done enough.  I was afraid to step into the fray, to stir the pot, afraid of the blowback – afraid of people whose entire modus operandi is rooted in their fear of change, of the other.  A loud, angry minority who are terrified that their mindset teeters on the edge of extinction and who are determined to take us all down with them.  Shame on me for being afraid of such people.  Shame on me for using my privilege not to speak.  And moreover, shame on me for being afraid to examine the hard truths about myself and my life and how I have contributed, unwittingly and not.  The microaggressive things I’ve said, the stereotypes I have perpetuated, and the unconscious biases that have simmered in my thoughts.  I am not innocent in this and neither are you.

I’m thinking about voices for the good fight that have been silenced recently.  People like John Lewis and Chadwick Boseman.  And my dear friend Louise Gornall.  We owe it to the memory of what they stood for to continue to use our voices in their place.  To never be afraid of what needs to be said or to do what needs to be done.  They cannot speak.  How dare we choose not to speak in their stead.  Let it not be said that we lost our civilization because in the last hour we were afraid to defend it.

I promise I will speak.  You need to as well.  Don’t ever let fear talk you out of it.

Don’t.  Waste.  Another.  Day.