I woke up this morning, read the front page of the Times and slipped into a panic attack. I don't tend to be prone to such a thing, but today's news was more than I could passively take.
Kiki and I got together over brunch this morning, as we're wont to do, and we quickly got to the depths of things: fear and self-identity. Our conversation ran the gamut from growing up in the age of AIDS and Lyme Disease, being creative writing professors in the age of Seung-Hui Cho and Virginia Tech, why passing as straight is hated in the gay community, how we hate being defined by others, how we hate that our institutions fail us, how we hate that we're feeling powerless in a world full of hate that we, at moments, see with great clarity. We're writers, and I daresay truth tellers, each in our own way, but we question the depth and reach of our impact (I should quit with the "we" here and just start speaking for myself).
Growing up in the '80s and '90s, I expected to contract AIDS and/or Lyme disease and die from it. I did not expect to get cancer and survive it. Right now I'm expecting one of my students to attack me physically, because he sees me as a vulnerable woman and I confronted him publicly about his agression. Am I concerned about the right things? Maybe I should fear diabetes. Maybe I should fear the karma splash from my government's illegal foreign policy. Perhaps I should fear the local community theater board of directors that wants my head on a platter. Maybe I should worry about head injuries incurred in my shower or fatal car accidents on a spring day. But what horror (or perhaps delight) might actually befall me I do not know. Whatever it may be, I feel duty bound to a moral imperative to resist the radical wrongs I witness in whatever ways I can. I do not want to live or die complicit in things I despise.
I am now a part of the media, that nebulous machine that helped create the pervasive fears that are so often red herrings. Who's asking the right questions? I think Kiki and I are, but we tend to do it over brunch. I think it's high time we open up the discussion to the rest of y'all inquisitive, thoughful beasts out there.
Be forewarned: I take many a cue from Michel Foucault and my life's greatest teachers and mentors have been queer and feminist theorists. This blog has been inspired by Kiki's and my work in linguistics and narratology--we're questioning and writing for our lives. To paraphrase Kierkegaard, the ethical person is editor of his life: to write one’s life is to assume responsibility for that life. But to know and write one's life, one must come to grips with her self, and honorably face the truth of that self despite the forces at work to berate and denigrate that self for not conforming to cultural norms.
So, it's an experiment. We tried to recreate our brunch conversation that birthed this crazy thing but then I inadvertently erased the damn thing before we made it into a podcast. Oh well. Now it's a blog.