Sunday, October 25, 2020

Process VI

"It would seem to me the proposition before the House, and I would put it that way, is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro, or the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro. Is the question hideously loaded, and then one’s response to that question – one’s reaction to that question – has to depend on effect and, in effect, where you find yourself in the world, what your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is. That is, it depends on assumptions which we hold so deeply so as to be scarcely aware of them." - James Baldwin (1965)
"Lovecraft Country" (HBO)
Education is the pathway to social justice. It is impossible to expose yourself to the history of human experience without (not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, running it thus*) the arc of your mind bending toward justice. 

Watching the first episode of Lovecraft Country (no spoilers, please) I immediately recognized the voice of James Baldwin as the characters Atticus, Lettie and George drove across the highways of America. This would not have been the case only three months ago. I fantasize myself as an enlightened person, but it is impossible to champion equal rights of POC without an education in and understanding of American history from the point of view of POC.

Every time I learn something new, and there is so much I do not know, I despair over how ignorant white America is to the struggle. It sounds like I am patting myself on the back that I “recognized the voice of James Baldwin” but I am also in awe of how I lived so long without having been able to do so. I am ignorant.

Returning to school has reminded me of the importance of education, of life-long education. My life in theater has been one of auto-didacticism. I failed to make strong connections with my mentors, and as a result have flitted from project to project, choosing how far or how deeply to go into any subject. I know an awful lot about very few things.

I can easily quote Shakespeare (*see above.) I cannot quote Baldwin. Whose words would be more relevant in the current moment?

My dark fiction story will be workshopped by the class this week. I need to turn in my Wright vignette, which is also complete. And just this week I have completed my first draft for the playwriting workshop. I have asked a couple of friends to read it out loud this weekend so I can hear it. This is something which should have a full read in class and maybe it’s overdoing it but I don’t want that to be the very first time I hear the entire thing aloud.

Since my childhood I have pushed to get my work out into the public sphere. Creating art for public consumption. There were a few years when I was in elementary school I feverishly created greeting cards. I had no outlet through which to sell them, I never actually used any. But I made them, and a lot of them.

In high school I created editorial cartoons of varying inscrutability, and the immediacy of creation to presentation -- from Tuesday to Friday -- was a high. 

Then there were my editorial experiments which were often disastrous. Often I would use a harsh metaphor to drive home a point, swatting flies with hammers, which earned me disdain for my big mouth and entirely losing the point of whatever argument I had intended to make.

This was always a bad habit of mine, as I was emboldened by a sense of grievance, buttressed by tremendous privilege. Not unfamiliar traits for a straight, white man, I know. 

Today I am hesitant, and overcritical. My protégés believe I am judging them when I take a long time to create an answer. I am just trying to be careful, and restrained.

I just want to get it right.

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