This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.
Excerpt from Paradoxes and Oxymorons by John Ashbery
a total stranger one black day
a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me–
who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was
-but now that fiend and i are such
immortal friends the other’s each
This blog entry comes with a warning. It’s going to be a little long and seem fragmented. Forgive me. Forgiveness is the theme of today’s post. I get to the point eventually.
I have been screwing up the courage to write this post for 11 months. I needed some time to gain perspective. As a person who has always felt under the protection of the sisterhood, in the sense that my closest relationships for my entire life have always been with women, it is hard for me to admit that one year into the #metoo movement, I have really complicated feelings around whether we are caught in the normal backwater churn of positive change or whether I am just collateral damage in a really good wave of progress.
It started with this sense of shame coming out of the New Year around our state of politics in this country,. A shame of association in being a white man. It doesn’t matter that my politics and beliefs are in complete conflict with the Republican party, there is a stain that feels like it spreads across the divide for simply being a member of the club – white, for being middle class, educated and privileged, even if I acknowledge the privilege.
I at first applauded the successes that #me too movement was creating in bringing down one icon after another for bad behavior in their personal and professional lives. I was hopeful this powerful movement would bring about change. But as time went along and for the most part, other than the entertainment industry and a few industry icons losing their positions of power and status, the two sides seemed to settle into a stale mate of hate, the feminists telling all testicle-carrying members of the male sex that we’re fucked up, or at least it felt that way in what I internalized, and Fox news and the weirdness that is white men in America counteracted each other with their shallow misinformed perspectives. As time went along, I started feeling more and more like I was somehow guilty too, even though I honestly can’t recall a single event in my life that would fall under the guise of the #metoo movement. At some point though, rather than feeling like I was moving across the divide with women to a better future, I simply felt beaten down by it all from both sides.
Why roll this confession out now? Every year for the past 15 years I have made a CD mix of my favorite new music from the past 12 months. The process of making the compilation is a true enjoyment for me, which is why I do it. This isn’t really a gift for others, it’s a gift to myself, with about 12 other people getting a copy to have some insight into what made me tick this past year. I start Thanksgiving weekend by digging out all the CD’s and vinyl I bought over the course of the year that is spread out over my car and my condo. I then listen to it all one more time. Sometimes I know exactly what songs are my favorites. Other times this process brings new insights into my personal soundtrack of the past year and it brings new songs to the top. The songs also have to flow. Sometimes initial picks that I love don’t make the final cut because they clash with the rest.
I also sit down and do a little research of all the best of lists in the media and online. I see if there are gems I missed. I always try to start things off with a bang on each CD with a great new rock and roll song or dance song. This year’s glum rock movement made that hard. I don’t really relate to most rap and it felt like it was only the rappers like Cardi B that were having fun in 2018. So what can this possibly have to do with the #metoo movement?
In searching through 2018 and a song with a sense of humor or that certain vibe I came across Lil Dickey’s Freaky Friday. The song itself did not make the mix as without the benefit of the visuals of the video, it’s not nearly as funny, but the video is brilliant. After watching the video 8 to 10 times, I realized the humor of it all made me think differently about Chris Brown. Granted the video is a home run for Brown! Who wouldn’t want to collaborate on a project where someone wants to be you for a day, but the positive energy he brings to it and the sheer joy of it, made me realize that Chris Brown is more complex a person than I have given him credit. I had allowed myself to dehumanize him and had broad brushed my thoughts about him based on bad press. I had to admit I really don’t know anything about Chris Brown and maybe I needed to give him another look.
It made me wonder, does the #metoo movement offer offenders a second chance? When is the movement going to shift from finger wagging, nagging screaming and shouting to forgiveness? When are men going to step up and internalize that bad behavior is not acceptable and earn a second chance? Does the #metoo movement have room for second chances, even for the worst offenders?
The best concert I went to last year was my birthday gift to my daughter in January. We went and saw First Aid Kit, one of both of our favorite bands, at the newly renovated Palace Theater in St. Paul. Their new album, which did make my best of, is outstanding and their concert was a blast. Their new album is called Ruins. It’s all about falling out of love and being sick and tired of men and the music business. Half way through the concert the lead singer, Klara Söderberg, shouted out to the crowd between songs something to the effect, “this next song goes out to all my sisters in the audience because we just aren’t going to take it anymore. We are tired of being scared of men and its time we take back what’s ours.” The audience went nuts. But not all the audience. Only the women in the audience. In the mosh pit of standing in close proximity to one another that only a rock concert can create, the men in the audience quickly became silent, in part from the dirty looks from the female strangers standing next to us if we had joined the applause, whistles and shouts, the male voices quickly fading. This song wasn’t going out to us. We (men) weren’t welcome in the club. We were the problem that needed silencing. And they did, silence us.
There is nothing wrong with what she said or the reaction of the women in the crowd. I even agree with it, I am tired of being scared of men too. What was shocking was how for the first time, I felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t welcome with the sisterhood who had tolerated me in Blue Birds, because my Mom had to take me along with my sisters, who had shared with me the secrets of some of the finer arts of cooking, sewing and nurturing, who had welcomed me into their inner confessional circle in the past. I have always known that I circle the periphery of the clan of men. I do enough to get by and be accepted, but I have never been completely comfortable. It was an odd feeling to stand there alone, realizing I was no longer a castaway on girl island and was swimming in a new current, one in which there was no life boat that was going to come to the rescue.
What happens next? If a man like me who considered himself on the side of the liberal feminists is retreating not in his beliefs but in his willingness to engage, what does that say about the movement? When will #metoo transform to also include the #forgivenesstoo movement? Great questions to contemplate for 2019.
Happy Holidays everyone.