I don’t much watch, listen to, or read the news. I do however watch movies, listen to music, and read books. I am keenly interested in how we continue to self-educate. More and more I find we are combinations of the information we converse and consume.
I recently read Just Mercy and have been thinking about what it would be like to sit on a stoop and listen to Rosa Parks talk for hours on end with her female peers. I have been thinking about what it means to be black and searched for sitting in one’s car, listening to a radio show late at night after a long day at the office. I have been thinking about what I would do with access to a gun and my Mom’s abusive and drunkenly asleep boyfriend. I have been thinking about worlds wildly different than, but geographically crashing into my own. I have been thinking.
That last sentence is key when it comes to evaluating the information I’m ingesting. Is what I am putting in prompting reflection, confrontation, and conversation? Is it a certainty loop or dead end? Is it reverberating or rippling? Is it question posing or answering? Does is leave me thinking I know?
Mom and I got into a heated conversation two weekends ago about the value of media. To me heat always means friction, the sign of discomfort and therefore newness and growth. Heat signifies the contestation of multiple identities, people, and/or elements at odds. Heat is how I test my thinking and knowing.
What I find frustrating is how often heat means freeze in our society. How heat is to be tempered, quelled, extinguished. Politics, sex, drugs, religion, and money are all seen as too hot. Try the weather, the food, the pets, your TV habits, anything that is as temperate as a 70 degree Seattle summer day. The kind of hunky dory that doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. The kind of weather that attracts the masses masquerading as the norm.
The trouble with that temperate is Las Vegas. Is Ferguson. Is Yellow Thunder. Is Selma. Is Wounded Knee. The trouble with that temperate is the hate and fear and brokenness in our personhood, in our social structures, in our government, in our economic system. The trouble with that temperate is the reality of cold calculated killing. We need heat.
If I fear anything in life, it is the invasive plague of temperate TV talk. It is finding the middle between average and awful. It is coasting conversations. It is inertia.
We don’t have time for 70 degrees. Douglas told us this 165 years ago, but the sun was probably just bright enough and he was probably just dark enough for the white noise of comfort and complacency to silence him.
“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.” Frederick Douglass, 1852
If you find yourself, in the days behind you and before you shying away from fire – I urge you to burn. Liberty and justice have never come from the click of a power button but from the discomfort of facing one’s own power as you uncover yourself and commit to the challenge of community.