This morning, when I first opened my eyes, I found that I had a heaviness in my chest. I started crying. Not a hard sobbing. Just lying there vaguely aware of tears welling up in my eyes. It’s not secret that I’m under treatment for depression, but this didn’t feel like the depression I’ve been experiencing for the past several years.
I’m pretty sure I’m not racist. I say “pretty sure” rather than “absolutely not” because I’m aware enough to know I’ve grown up in a racist society and we don’t ever entirely transcend our own time and place. However, I do believe that there are no significant biological differences among people of different races. In fact, I believe that the concept of race has no grounding in biology. Therefore, differences in social status and behavior are entirely a product of the environment.
Am I xenophobic? That’s almost laughable since I run the risk of being called a xenophile.
Am I culturally biased? That’s a far more complicated question. To start, I would have to have a firm idea of what constitutes a good society. I am tempted to answer that that would be the society that allows for the greatest degree of human flourishing and the least suffering. However, flourishing is an unsatisfactorily vague term. I don’t think there is any culture that is perfect, which has all the answers. In so far as any culture that is in existence today could be said to be a successful culture, no culture is without any value. That said, I am not a cultural relativist. I terms of particulars, I think some ways of organizing human society are better than others.
I think that there are no gods, spirits, or other immaterial beings, great or small. Therefore, the least human suffering based on the supposed desires of non-existent beings can be said to be an unqualified ill.
Last week, I was very quick to put up a post that said, “Je suis Charlie.” It would turn out that I was on the wrong side of the overall consensus. I had read, or more accurately seen, Charlie Hebdo a handful of times in the past. When I put up that statement, I did not mean that I endorsed everything that had ever been printed in that magazine, nor did I think that was what anyone else mean. I recalled that immediately after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Le Monde published an editorial that said, “Nous sommes tous américains.” I did not take that to mean that the editors of that paper had endorsed everything the United States had ever done or ever would do, or that they were suddenly enamored of every aspect of American culture. I did not feel at the time that “Je suis Charlie” meant that I personally endorsed every cartoon they had ever published. In my mind, I supported their right to speak their mind without fear of violence.
I have mentioned that I have had nightmares in the wake of the assassinations. The day before, I had drawn a cartoon. It seems so long ago now, but you may remember an incident in which a woman tossed a handbag holding a gun in a shopping cart with her two-year old. The child took out the gun and shot his mother. Her father-in-law objected to the characterization of the woman as irresponsible. He said that she had not simply tossed the gun into any old purse but a purse with a special compartment. I did not know what this meant, so I looked it up. It turns out that these purses are designed for easy access. This made the action of the dead woman seem all the more irresponsible to me. So, I drew this:
The night of the killings of the cartoonists, I went to sleep. I dreamed I was lying in bed. I heard someone at my door trying to get in. However, the chain was on the door and after several attempts the person went away. Then I went downstairs and exited my apartment building. Standing in front of my building was a stocky middle-aged white man in wearing khaki pants and vest and holding a rifle, like someone ready to go on a safari. Somehow, I understood him to be a gun rights activist. As I walked out of my door, he shot me in the chest. I woke up.
Are there such things as universal human rights and is free speech one of them? I won’t accept the word racist, but am I an imperialist for believing that there are and it is? I don’t know anymore, but this much I do know…
I feel lucky to have been born in one of the wealthiest regions of one of the wealthiest countries during an era of widely shared prosperity. I have gone out dancing till dawn, have had lots of good sex with lots of men, I have had plenty of good things to eat, all in all, I think I was damned lucky about when and where I was born. I would not want to have been born into the world the killers would like to create. Am I wrong to feel this way? Am I culturally biased? Maybe, but I do feel this way. No matter how many times people tell me I’m racist, I still feel this way. Am I racist to be glad to have fucked, to be glad to have danced? Is wanting to dance and fuck and draw and paint and sing a reasonable basis for choosing one culture over another?
It is clear that I have never been on the right politically. Within the past week, however, I’ve found myself at odds with people on the left. I feel extremely alone. Politics is not something that can happen alone.
I just feel weary and lonely.
The best way out of this seems to me to be to stop concerning myself with politics. I’ll keep writing if I find something else to write about.