Planting a Flag

When you feel like you just need to curl up into a ball and anywhere will do.

Hi there. Your old friend Graham reporting in.

I had to sweep out a few tumbleweeds on here today before starting to type, including, as you’ll notice, the design of the site itself. It was probably a good hint that the theme was called “twenty fourteen” as that feels like the last time I actually paid attention to this place with any regularity. Long time (and very patient) readers may have noticed a few attempts at grand “I’m back!” announcements only to fail to see any follow up. There have been a few reasons for that.

The most prominent is the perfectionist anxiety that has been a persistent thorn in my 46 years of life – and which is often difficult to explain to those who haven’t had their ambitions undercut by it at so many turns. How to describe it – a feeling like if the next few words aren’t the single most brilliant, life-changing phrase ever assigned to paper, it is better to not even attempt to write them down. If the next post doesn’t get a million likes and shares, better to keep it locked away inside my head. And the rational adult in me knows that is a foolish pass at logic, but the wounded little boy craving a hug from long-departed parents screams it so loud that nothing else can be heard – leading to what is essentially, creative paralysis.

Another thing I’ve struggled with a lot over these last few years is something I’ve come to call “validity of voice” – the idea that the last person anyone needs to hear from in this turbulent time is yet another cisgender, heterosexual white male. We are living in the era of whitelash and straightlash, where the traditional power structure has been undermined and is flailing to hold onto dwindling influence by actively oppressing every voice that dares to challenge it. As the majority awakens to the ugliness that has perpetuated the conveniences it takes for granted and decides that this is not okay, we see whites, straights and conservatives who have traditionally owned the space for discourse whine that they are “being silenced,” and we get dozens of stories in The New York Times about Trump voters in diners who can’t cope with seeing transgender people holding hands in public. Frankly, it is too easy for people like me to find an audience, and while I can empathize, I can’t really articulate exactly what it must feel like to feel any kind of oppression. I am from the most privileged caste on earth, I started with a huge leg up simply because of where I was born, the color of my skin and the status of my gender. No one’s pulled me over without cause, no one’s hurled a slur at me or denied me a job based on what I look like. Who really needs to hear me talk about some hard times I might be going through? The stories that need to be told and boosted are from those who can’t so easily find sympathetic ears.

There is a political theory, exemplified by the execrable Steve Bannon, on “flooding the zone with shit” – that is, overwhelming your opponents with so much disinformation that they cannot even locate a foothold to being pushing back. The world really does feel flooded with shit at the moment. The worst of humanity continues to drive the news – Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rupert Murdoch and Pierre Poilievre, to name just a few who it didn’t take me more than twelve seconds scrolling through Twitter this morning to come across in headlines yet again – not to mention Donald effing Trump, the spectre of whom continues to lurk at the edge of our collective consciousness despite very clear evidence that he’s rapidly disintegrating both mentally and physically, and about whom a think-piece about a potential political comeback is always good for a few fear-clicks and retweets. When there’s so much awfulness everywhere all the time, where do you plant your flag and announce with the certitude of Captain Picard, “this far and no farther!” Can you really be an adequate advocate for the causes you believe in if you have to divide your focus between so many of them?

Finally, I have allowed myself to become overly concerned about the impact of something I say publicly. This last one has perhaps been the most crippling of all in terms of my willingness to express myself, but it is also the flimsiest excuse when put through rigorous analysis. I understand who I am and how I feel about things, and while I might make an inadvertent mistake here and there, I would never purposefully set out to say something bigoted or hurtful. I am not a man who punches down, ever – power and hypocrisy are what should be challenged and exposed, not innocents who are struggling to get by. I recognize that the wisest statement of all is the admission that “I know nothing” and that life is about learning, not preaching. And being afraid to speak because there might be blowback is somehow thinking that there must be something wrong with what I want to say. I would never post anything that I wouldn’t stand behind a hundred percent, whether it’s a review of a James Bond movie or my feelings about the utter wrongness and patheticness of white male privilege. If I get it wrong, I’ll apologize, learn and do better. But I won’t ever set out to act like an entitled bastard, because all that does is add more shit to the flood, and we are barely keeping our noses above it right now. The least I can do is try to pass around as many lifejackets as I can spare.

There are my thoughts for the day. Not perfect or life-changing, not broad or unique, just a little flag here in my corner of the dirt that I can be okay with saluting. And for the first time in quite a while, I can confidently say that there is more to come.

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