Thursday, May 13, 2021

Talking with the Other

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."  -John Adams


So began my Facebook post, with my further comments: 


A reminder to Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rudy Guiliani, Tucker Carlson, Brian Kemp, the former POTUS who should be in jail and a horrifically long list of other traitors to the Constitution from our 2nd President. (Note: "Religious" as in living the words "Love thy neighbor as thyself.")


Well, you know how it is on Facebook. You generally gather like-minded people into your “Friends” tribe and they regal with you likes, shares and “right on!” comments. It makes you feel good and supports your bubbled perception that the world and its people are better than the news portrays. But this time, I got this comment: 


“I always loved Bono from U2. I thought he was a deep and soulful lyricist and vocalist. That was until he became political. I think the same applies here.”


I knew the person he wrote it, a music teacher from South Africa who studied with me, taking both the Jazz Course and the Levels training. So I replied: 


“Hmmm. Not sure of your intent here, but if it’s resistance to ‘being political,’ I would say that it’s a symptom of the worst kind of privilege, the kind that thinks one can afford to not dirty oneself with ‘politics.’ It’s a branch of the white privilege that allows white folks not to think about black folks getting murdered by the police, shut out of housing, denied justice, etc. But to think that one can ignore politics altogether is naïve at best and dangerous at worst because that privilege won’t protect you from the aftermath of political decisions. There’s simply no where you can run where politics won’t catch you. As we have learned the hard way, how a leader responds to a pandemic that can kill you and your loved ones is political, how a leader deals with climate change that threatens your safety with fires and hurricanes is political, how a leader feeds or discourages the rise of right-wing fascism is political. Soulful lyrics are wonderful, but they won’t mean so much to you as you gasp for breath on a ventilator, flee your home from a fire, find your right to vote threatened. Of course, there’s still room for beautiful music and fun gatherings with friends, but I simply don’t see how anyone paying attention doesn’t understand how that must be balanced with political awareness, speaking out, taking action. Do you?"


While it’s easy for me to step up on the soap-box, I thought my answer was mostly respectful, thought-provoking and inviting sincere dialogue. And the response? 


“I’m so busy enjoying my white privilege that I don’t really have time to think about all that crap.”


Bam! The game was on. A rare dialogue across a yawning gap with someone I had some kind of relationship with. I actually had noted some reactionary comments a few years ago, so it wasn’t a complete shock, but still it disturbed me that someone I trained and someone teaching kids has this attitude. I tried one more way into a sincere conversation, with some strong but gentle questions and what I thought was a generous reading of his character. As follows: 


“I’m so disappointed in your posture of not caring. I don’t think that’s who you are in your heart. You certainly must have felt the humanity of the diverse people in the Orff course we experienced together, but I simply don’t understand how you can dismiss the struggle that people who did nothing wrong face every day when people hate them and block them and dismiss them and hurt them and even kill them because such people refuse to question the legacy of white supremacy. And again, this is now so much more than a racial issue. “All that crap” is exactly what’s on your doorstep as the sea waters rise and the virus keeps spreading. If you hold to the privilege you think you are enjoying without shame, I believe we have nothing more to say to each other. But it indeed makes me sad that you accept this lesser version of yourself.”


Shall I go on? No, I shouldn’t, but he did, asking me how dare I criticize Ted Cruz or Tucker Carlson without having had meaningful conversations with them, accused me of "spewing hate" and so on. I kept the ball in the air a few more times, not so much from my macho “I’m gonnna kick your ass in this argument!” self (though I admit it’s there!), but as a model for others to consider when they’re engaged in “discussions” like this. But at the end of the day, you can often tell from the tone whether it’s worthwhile and in spite of our relationship, it don’t believe it was. 


But it was a good exercise for me to think about how to approach such things, having had little practice with my “like” Facebook friends. How are such things going for you?

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