I think of Tirol, a man who has worked to devise a comprehensive martial law curriculum that can be taught in schools, saying sorry. I think I’m going to end up saying sorry some years down the line for being uppity, condescending, and quick to ridicule and condemn people who don’t really know better, the kind I’m around all the time. Maybe that kind of behavior bleeds into aging. Irrational as it sounds, I fear some of us, filled to the brim with outrage and good intentions, might end up becoming the grumpy curmudgeons we relish cutting down now. I mean, some of us are throwing non-constructive shade against kids who get most of their political savvy from Tumblr, just to look cool. Why? This is one way to lose the memory war.
“I want us to win. I want us to walk our talk, and in effect walk the talk of generations before us.”
I want to say to our future children that we beat the enemy easily. That was certainly how it sounded whenever my parents told me stories about martial law, in the same tone someone uses when they tell you about a skydiving trip. But that’s not how it works. My friends and I are learning that dissent doesn’t come with a rulebook, not really. There are elements to it that you learn right on the field — nuances that take more delicate engagement than, say, outright hate speech or harassment, which we always have to come down hard on. Barring that, what is the science of breaking someone out of their confirmation biases? What do we make of “woke” posturing and intellectual pissing contests? What’s the proper etiquette for unified resistance? Yes, we’re many. Yes, we’re doing what we can to stick it to the man. And yes, there will always be a time and place for righteous venom and vitriol. I’m not asking for us to hold hands and sing Kumbayah around a campfire. But I don’t know if we’re doing everything we can to get more voices and bodies on our team.
I remember speaking to a friend, a couple years ago, about the work he was doing for LGBT rights. He said he wasted no time trying to convert those much older, the ones beyond cognitive hope. Instead he focused on younger, more open and impressionable minds. Children. There’s a wisdom to that, narrowing your aim for better shots. But maybe we have to broaden our definition of “young and impressionable minds” beyond kids who still wear towels for capes. Maybe we have to include some of our friends our own age, who still think apathy is cool, who shy away from the messiness of politics, who fancy themselves as agents of chaos for not riding the wave of outrage. Maybe we have to adjust our rhetorical strategies for whoever it is we’re talking to.
I want us to win. I want us to walk our talk, and in effect walk the talk of generations before us. I want to pass our stories down without having to say sorry, because we’ve got so many of our friends on our team. I don’t know if this is reasonable to ask for, when there’s so much pressure to be perfect and airtight and clean. But we can try. See you at the Saturday rally. Bring a friend. Try to bring an enemy.