not in our stars, but in ourselves
Things are bad all over the place, but currently they’re especially bad in Baltimore and Nepal. I don’t have anything piercingly insightful to say about either situation…but when has that stopped me before?
First, Nepal. Please, for the love of humanity, do not retweet something with a #PrayForNepal hashtag and leave it at that. Donate if you can. Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF are good options, and there are plenty more. Take your pick. But please, if you have any money to spare, throw it at one (or several) of the charity organizations on the ground in Nepal now. Facebook even has a handy-dandy donation button right at the top of most people’s newsfeeds, so you can’t claim you don’t know how to help. You do. Moral support, in the form of prayer or whatever you like, is fine. It can’t rescue lives, not in any direct way.
Second, Baltimore. I recommend reading “Two States of Emergency in Baltimore” and “Nonviolence as Compliance” – both from The Atlantic. I also recommend reading this harrowing report from the Baltimore Sun, about previous victims of extreme extrajudicial violence doled out by the Baltimore Police Department. Do I think rioting is an effective means to an end? No, of course not. Do I think the rioters are right to be angry? Yes, I do. David Simon summed it up about as well as any white person could hope to:
Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed. And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city. Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard. All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets.
But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease. There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please.
However, he isn’t one of the oppressed. It’s easier for the rest of us to stand back and advise peace and quiet, since we haven’t had to see our loved ones emerge paralyzed from a police van after a “rough ride.” It’s harder for us to understand that anger – because we’ve never been marginalized and brutalized like that. It’s hard to be rational in a situation like Baltimore’s – even if it would be the better path to take.
I don’t know what the solution is, or if there’s a solution, but I’m worried that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Do you think people in Baltimore ever believed they’d see a sequel to Ferguson in their own backyard? Do you believe you could ever see it in your hometown? Do I believe it could happen in Boston? The answer to all three, at some point in time, is or was probably a “no” – and yet, and yet. Here we are. It’s always something that happens “somewhere else” and “to someone else” until it happens to you.
Edited to add a third: Indonesia. Indonesia, despite all appeals to sense and compassion, plans to execute nine people for drug possession. I know for a fact that Australians consider Bali a fun, lovely place to go on holiday – but please, for fuck’s sake, stop doing that, Australia. Do not give a country with such a medieval view of the world your tourist dollars. That goes for any other countries that frequent Indonesia as a tourist destination; I just know about Australia because I heard a lot about it when I lived there.
Lest you think I’m prejudiced: I don’t encourage anyone to support the U.S. with their tourist money, either. However, they will whether I like it or not. I’m not really in favor of traveling just for the sake of traveling, as much as I wish I could do it myself. This postwar obsession with “deserving” several weeks of vacation each year – of deserving to actually go somewhere on vacation for several weeks each year – is, like most postwar obsessions, misguided. According to me, anyway. (I am totally in favor of taking time off from work, don’t you worry. No one is lazier than me.) The tourism industry creates situations where the rich and mighty siphon off resources from the poor and miserable in most cases; and, in places like Indonesia, it creates situations where interlopers are put to death by a power-mad government that thinks it’s invincible. I think that’s fucked up. Maybe you disagree.