subculture geek

“She had blue skin.”

vforvendettaThe truth is, I’m afraid of you.

Well, maybe not you– not you specifically.  You and I would probably be good friends.  We’d go out for coffee and tea, and you’d learn to understand all my different smiles, and I’d learn to understand yours.

You are probably a great keeper of secrets, a trustworthy friend.  You are probably open-minded, gracious, funny, and kind.  Of course I am not afraid of you.

I’m afraid of you.  The collective you.  The you who doesn’t believe that someone with an opposing opinion is good at heart.  The you who says I believe what I believe because I am confused, trod upon, and stifled.

I am stifled, but not by the oppressors you mention.  You are my oppressor.  The collective you.

gatticaI am your poster child and you put me on your banners.  You didn’t ask for my opinions, and I don’t tell.  The truth is, there’s a lot of things I don’t share because I know it matters to you in a way that would keep you from having a cup of tea with me.

Sure, you say you’d understand– and maybe the singular you– the one sitting across from me at a cafe really would.

But the collective you wants to eat me alive, wants to steal my thoughts and turn them into your own.  The collective you wants me dead because I am a well-spoken spokesperson for the opposition and even torture is too good for the likes of me.

You want my eyes scratched out.  You want my flaws exposed.  You want to weaken my stance in the face of others, and weaken me so that you can inject me full of your idealism.

I think you call it “saving” me.

In a way, I thank you for that.  I know you believe what you believe– truly, and unequivocally– and I’m honored that you think I am worth saving.

A photo from the wonderful PhrogMom.  Photo and background story here: http://phrogmom.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/things-we-keep-hidden/
A photo from the wonderful PhrogMom. Photo and background story here: http://phrogmom.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/things-we-keep-hidden/

On the other hand, I know the consequence if I choose not to accept your grace.

I’ve seen you– the collective you– in the comments of YouTube videos and BuzzFeed articles.  You are anonymous, you are fierce, and you are angry that anyone would dare believe differently.

You’ve decided that the only reasonable explanation is that opposers are confused, misinformed, or evil — perhaps all three.

I am not evil, and I am too smart to be misinformed, so I must be confused.

This analysis of my complex self, and this circular reasoning, confuses me more than anything.

You want a world where I am not silenced by others?

Only by you?

michaelcainechildrenofmenAt a cafe, the singular you would hear me out.  I would make you smile.  It is a particular gift of mine.  People smile even when I’m saying things they don’t approve of, or believe in.  It’s a trait that makes the singular you and I such good friends.

It’s the trait that makes me an enemy of the collective you.

I am an enemy and you are fighting a war.  If I speak, you’ll find me, so I stay silent– because I have things to protect.  A family, a mind, a tapestry of beliefs, and a brilliant river of love.  These things are mine and you — the collective you– will destroy them just to prove a point.

I understand, and I’ve always understood this.

A little version of myself, decades ago, sat on the knee of her father — my father — and asked a question that she’d be asking for the whole rest of her life– “Why do people get so angry?”

Dad explained.  “People get angry because good people stay silent.  People need to see, and hear, how very different people can lead very good lives.  Silence makes secrets, secrets make fear.  Only noise makes peace.”

Simple words for a child, without any signs of the struggle it is to make noise.  Simple words, without any thought to the idea that maybe the child sitting on his lap didn’t possess his courage.

She would grow up, noisy on the inside and silent on the outside, because you– the collective you– is at war.

She is the enemy.  She was born the enemy.  She is me, and I am afraid.

I know that the singular you and I could share a pot of tea one day.  I could share my life with you, and count on you to keep my secrets silent.  The singular you frees me as much as the collective you imprisons me. The singular you encourages noise, but the collective you reminds me to stay silent.

If I make noise, the collective will find me– and, failing to save me, will bloody my river of love.

But there’s a risk to silence, too.  People have been known to suffocate under masks.

Have coffee with me, and I'll show you my blue skin.
Have coffee with me, and I’ll show you my blue.

102 comments

  1. Wonderful. Every word, including one of my faves, Shel Silverstein. That poem was perfect for your post.
    I am embroiled in the same (almost) exact thoughts lately. I am so close to closing my FB page, because I am tired of dancing around angry people and their angry issues. One is a close (by blood) family member.
    I love your distinction between the singular you and the collective you. I just keep saying, yes! I feel your frustration.
    Oh my, that “A Policy of Yes” may be the best thing I have ever read on a blog.
    Keep it coming :>)

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    1. Yay, thank you! Feel free to nab whatever parts of the policy of yes you like– that’s what it’s all about. 🙂

      There are so many angry people (and so many on Facebook, haha) that sometimes small thoughts feel like walking through a minefield, which is actually which inspired this post. I wrote a post, and opted not to publish it… then another… and the same happened. Finally, I decided to write about a safe topic like muppets, but then this post got written instead. 🙂

      I’m always happy to know another lover of Silversten– he’s brilliant and this poem is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the perils of staying silent.

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      1. I actually spoke up twice this eve. Once on FB and once on a blog. My first times to do that. One turned out great, the other…nothing, which is fine.
        I also did not speak up on one blog and endless FB posts. Damn. Who cares, even when I speak up, I am too polite to be noticed :>) Grrrr.
        Thank you for the friendly banter…I know that I am safe with you.

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        1. I speak up every once in awhile, when I feel like someone is inviting response– but never on Facebook, and rarely on blogs. Usually, I try to restrict it to just sharing an alternate viewpoint– whether or not that viewpoint is mine.

          And, yes, always, you’re absolutely safe here even if you totally completely disagree with me and think I’m talking nonsense. 🙂 I grew up in a home with a million perspectives… so of the many things I fear, difference of opinion is not one. 😀

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  2. This made me so sad. I understand too well. I’ve learnt to protect myself with the result of seclusion. It’s so difficult to have to fight or who one is most of the time. Look after yourself. Don’t let the collective get to you. It’s very difficult and indeed heartbreaking that one has to do this.

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    1. I’m sorry that you were able to empathize. I like to imagine that most people can live their noisy lives in peace, without fear– but most people probably understand this to some extent or another. Like you say– differences are everywhere– in how we look, behave, or believe.

      🙂 This post, though, wasn’t inspired by someone being rude… it was more inspired by the fear that kept me from posting other things.

      Thank you for reading, and for sharing your own experiences with this same phenomenon!

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  3. The sentence: ”…you want to expose my flaws … ” is relevant. To be different, either in the way one looks, behaves or believes is always going to be hard work. Sorry some people were rude to you.

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    1. It absolutely is self-preservation, and there’s validity to that stance… sometimes I just feel like there’s more honor and dancing room over on the noise side of the system. 😀 I can spell rhinoceros, but I have no idea how to pluralize it… rhinoceri? rhinoceroses? rhinos! 🙂

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  4. I recently opened myself up on my blog about a family member’s remark which hurt me, but I never revealed who said what, and now I’m met with the silent treatment for which I don’t feel I deserve. I’m blue too Rara. xo

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  5. Bloody my river of love- the insight in that line is so crystal clear that it makes me want to have that cuppa with you. That’s exactly what they want to do, what they collective ‘they’ have always wanted to do, brutal good intentions, dragging you lead footed to the ‘right side’. This was a brilliantly written piece that I think the collective and singular should read and truly contemplate. You’ve offered an option of bravery for the day, and a mouthful of chewy food for thought.

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  6. Enjoyed the post very much. Brings to mind my fav quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (I tell my kids that means women, too!)

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    1. Haha, of course it means women, too. That danged double syllable makes it hard for writers to use… I myself fall into the eloquence of the single syllable “man” or “men”. It stands for mankind, in my mind.

      Thank you for reminding me of that beautiful quote.

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  7. I really understood this post so well. I grew up in Ireland during the “troubles” There was huge violence in the North primarily due to religious intolerance, Catholics versus Protestants. I lived in the South so it was not evident but my family were from the North. It was a whole new world going up there and experiencing huge levels of hate. My father always said until the day came when all children were educated together the violence would continue.
    I can remember my grandmother coming to visit and giving out to my mother for letting us play with a protestant. Did she ever meet this little boy or his family? No, all she knew was his name. Craig Thomson, in her mind a real protestant name. Needless to say my mother told her what she thought of her comment.
    I love the fact that you clearly state that individually we can all get on, it is collectively we do not. Super.

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    1. The “they” and the “them” make everything so war-like, it truly frightens me most days. It’s not just the obvious things like religion… it’s activisms of all sort, from vegetarianism to feminisn. I’m happy to hear that you survived those troubles and came out of all that hate with such an open and welcoming spirit. It sounds like your parents had a lot to do with that! 🙂

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  8. love this post. i struggle with being open on my blog as well (mostly because some of mr p’s family reads along, but also because i would be scared for someone local to read something….radical) i did my mfa thesis on the idea of masks we wear. i’ll post a picture for you. ❤

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    1. Yay! I’d love to read the thesis! None of my family, except Dave, reads my blog. I’m just too familiar with all the various activists out there, and any post I write… I try to envision it from multiple perspectives. Sometimes I know the comment section will make me want to run and hide, haha, because I’ll be forced into the uncomfortable situation of either removing my mask or … lying. Those posts get backlisted for braver days. 😀

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  9. I think I have been better about speaking up and out on certain things, but it just depends on the when, where and such. Friends, I am OK with. Family, though they are the ones I should stand up to, not so much. Too many different situations and nuances at play. Thank you for this post.

    (I also thank you for the Gattaca picture, though I would have preferred to see Loren Dean over Ethan Hawke ;-))

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    1. Not a Jude Law fan? 😀

      You’re right about the nuances. I think that’s why it’s easier to deal one on one with people– you can factor for details. It can be hard to write for the public, because there are many things that go into the way people think… and you couldn’t possibly take them all into account. Ah, if only taking off the mask was easier! 🙂

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  10. (Please read this over a pot of tea, and pretend we’re having it together. I feel no anger or animosity, but I’m afraid it’s going to sound like I do because . . . internet.)

    So to be honest? When I read things like this, particularly when I write posts like my last one, I get afraid, too. I get afraid that I will be lumped into the collective “you.” So I don’t usually write those posts, and I keep my mouth shut even though I really, at the core of who I am, believe we all need “saving” and that there is such a thing as Salvation, and that I could help people find it.

    I don’t feel like I have to bludgeon anybody with it, and I don’t feel like people who disagree are my enemies–or confused–and frankly, sometimes the disagreement makes more sense to me than the slavish acceptance, but I still believe it–and I wish felt freer to say what I believe.

    Thinking about it in these terms, I realise that I am afraid, too, and that I could also say, with you, “She would grow up, noisy on the inside and silent on the outside, because you– the collective you– is at war. She is the enemy. She was born the enemy. She is me, and I am afraid.”

    In the never-met-probably-will-never-meet world we cyberly inhabit, I love you, my friend, and I actually love that you posted this, but I also figured you, of all people, would want to hear the perspective of someone who might, at least seemingly, be on the other side of the fence. I’m almost afraid as I post this, but . . . I mean, it’s Rara.

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    1. Aw, Jenn, you know I love you no matter what. 😀 Plus, you’re not a bludgeoner. You very clearly state your opinion, and offer insightful thoughts from your perspective. I have a feeling that makes you far more effective in your cause. In terms of salvation as you define it, I’m probably a lost cause, because I really do see it from your perspective and just disagree with my mind & soul– but I love you for wanting to save me, without feeling the need to trample the beliefs I currently have and the life I live.

      I think you most definitely face a collective you, as well– just not the one I face, probably. 🙂 Part of fearing the collective you is knowing that what you say will make them see you as a “collective you” of your own, instead of a person.

      I did use the word “saving”, but I wasn’t actually talking about religion– though religion is part of this spectrum of thought often. (*whispers* The group that frightened me into this was actually feminism. I honestly feel that patriarchy has more or equally negatively affected men. This feeling/experience puts me in the enemy camp, most of the time, and it’s a little frightening. I’m open minded and consider things on a case by case basis– but it never seems to matter. I also think that making everything into a feminist issue diminishes women, and the issue. See? I’ll probably get stoned now, but I wanted to assure you that this post wasn’t a dig on Christians. 🙂 Not that it’s a dig on feminists either. It’s just about fear.)

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      1. Heh. Yeah, I didn’t really think it was an anti-Christian rant, but I’m familiar with being part of the “collective you” at which things like this are addressed. Or . . . whatever I’m trying to say. I think I’m trying to mostly say, thanks for your irenic response and for what I would consider the complimentary words. 🙂

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  11. Interesting post . . . Never really thought of that, though I never have issues, really . . . That’s why being a fantasist is my way of expressing how I feel and still stay silent, whether one gets it or not 😉 I don’t care, and to not care is my noise.

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  12. This is where the policy of “divide and conquer” serves us well – one cup of tea, one post, one comment exchange at a time. There is no real collective except the fierce fiction that exists in all of our minds, the nebulous “them”.

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    1. You’re so right. We’ll solve this thing one cup of tea at a time, and unravel the myth of the “them”! That’s probably why I love the blogosphere so much… no other venue/method seems to accomplish that task as well as blogging does. 🙂 Thank you for reading, Michelle, and for your sterling insights!

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  13. Beautifully stated, Rara. Noisy on the inside, quiet on the outside; I grew up that way as well. Occasionally I become noisy on the outside but that is terrifying when I do, as I wait for the collective to attack.

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    1. Same. Sometimes I can’t help it, and I rawr– but then I wait for the attack. Sometimes that fear can linger for days after I post, or say, something… I know a lot of that is anxiety in my own mind, but still. It’s there. I’d like to work on it, and now that I have written out the basis of my fear… I might be able to! 🙂

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  14. I am very afraid, damn girl, when I clicked on your post and started to read the comments my entire system went out! All the lights, the computer, everything; my whole house.

    I get what you are saying down to my very core. One of my dear friends recently responded to something that had just popped out of my mouth by saying: “Sometimes I forget you are not all sweetness and light.” I took that as a compliment. I have been known to rub people the right way and leave a raw spot. But hey~ that’s me.

    Yet, at the same time I have spent much of my life hiding “who” I am. NEVER again.

    BTW, those people can not save anyone. We have to leave that up to the one who can.

    Hanging out with the angels,
    Juju

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    1. PS: This piece is fantastic, your dad is a genius (the apple did not fall far from that tree), and my treat when we go for tea.
      I reblogged; just had to!

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      1. Your system went out! I hope that’s rolling blackouts or something, and not a sign! 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts on this, your kind words, and your awesome attitude! Here’s hoping it’s contagious and your bravery spreads to me! 😀

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  15. I feel like patti about her FB page. The collective you bothers me there. It seems so selfish and self serving. Not nearly as supportive as I once thought it would be. I would like to be part of the singular you that gets to know YOU.

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    1. The singular you is a wondrous thing. 🙂 FB, and other internet-war-zones are frightening to me because it shows how eager people are to join the fray. There’s a book I loved in my childhood about war and potatoes. (“Potatoes, potatoes” by Anita Lobel) A mom has a potato farm and two boys. Both boys leave to join the war outside the walls of her farm– one boy on each side of the fight despite her warnings. They’re so eager to join, and then eventually rejoin the farm when they realize how pointless all that is… I feel like the mom. Locking myself away in a potato farm saying, “Potatoes anyone?” anytime someone mentions their collective you war efforts. I’m not sure where I was going with that thought, actually… haha, but the point is… if you’re ever in SoCal and up for some tea or coffee, hit me up. 🙂 I’d love to meet the singular you!

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      1. Thanks! I never read that book, but it sounds like many of the Civil War stories I have heard. I like face book, but it seems rather impersonal for a “social” media place.

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  16. I understand thata fear of inciting anger — I’ve felt that trepidation in blogging on spirituality from the beginning. Especially since I realized early on how very many right wing fundamentalists all blog under the spirituality tag/category. The universe must be looking out for me because none of them has ever popped in to drop hateful words. I have had some folks from writing prompts in which I participate who were clearly uncomfortable, but not mean.
    When those kind of moments have popped up elsewhere in my life, in recent years I work to “not take it personally” and to allow their anger to go through me without affecting me. Easier said than done.
    I’m not always sure that speaking up is the right thing unless I can figure out a way to speak up without launching a battle. Sometimes I just say a prayer for lovingkindness and go back to working on being peace within myself in the hope that that will ripple out.
    Very thought provoking post! Thanks.

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    1. “I’m not always sure that speaking up is the right thing unless I can figure out a way to speak up without launching a battle. ” – Same! My intention is never to join the war or start a battle, just to examine a thought. Though examination is sort of my MO. 🙂

      There’s always room for prayers of lovingkindness! 🙂

      And yum, I love coffee as much as tea! I’d love to have you by for some beverage sipping. 😀

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  17. LOL Garry and I are the poster child for everything everyone hates most. Two liberal Yankees, mixed race, one Jewish (OMG!), the other a media maggot. Everything you love to hate in one package. I have always said when comes the revolution, we will be the first ones up against the wall riddled with bullets. But we have survived, you see, and now, old as we are, we aren’t important enough to waste a couple of perfectly good bullets. You just have to outlive them, that’s all. Your job is to survive. And so far, so good!

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  18. “Silence makes secrets, secrets make fear.” You are lucky to have such a wise father.

    I really like this piece. You’re right, anger is scary. I’m not as polite or thoughtful as you, and I over-share my abhorrent opinions like crazy on my blog. I’m sure the one’s who want to “save” have long ago considered me a lost cause, and that’s okay.

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    1. I am quite lucky to have such a wise father, 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading, and for sharing your experiences with … well… sharing. 😀 You are brave, and I’m inspired by your unwillingness to be stifled. 🙂

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  19. Brilliant. There’s something about the way you express things I sense just under my own surface that makes me wonder if, as a writer, I’m hiding behind my tutorials…

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    1. 🙂 I would love a peek behind the tutorials every once in awhile, but I’m nosy like that, haha. 😀 Thank you for reading, and for empathizing!

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  20. Truly profound, and what a wise dad you have. I usually keep silent, but once, on FB, I expressed an opinion about something minor and got a torrent of responses. Some agreed, and it was almost like they were waiting for someone like me to bring it up. But others reacted negatively. Such a minor point, but they were angry. I decided not to be so open in the future with the collective you. I’m glad you are so brave.

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    1. 🙂 Thank you! I’m really not that brave… I try, most days, because I know that my dad is a very smart man and his advice would be to state my thoughts, think out my ideas, and share my voice. Still, the fear of all that anger directed at me can be crippling… I usually have to save ideas for times where I know I’ll time to recoup from the backlash. It seems impossible to know all the different things that can trigger anger in someone!

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  21. There is so much I want to say too, but I don’t out of fear and because I don’t want to try to convince the loved ones who think that I’m just misguided that I’m just not. I’m getting there, though, closer to a place where I can say what I feel and just not care. What’s that phrase? The truth shall set you free. There’s something to that.

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    1. “Misguided” is like “confused”– it’s rude, haha. 🙂 There’s definitely something to noise making… just going forward with the effort can be terrifying. It’s funny because in real life, I usually have no problem stepping forward… but when it comes to the written word, I panic. Something about the immortality of my thoughts, I suppose…

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  22. I usually try not to rad comments on sites like YouTube or those sites with celebrity news…so many vicious people out there it makes me wonder where they all come from..you know?
    I figured out that anger can also come from fear…I’m still experimenting with it..;)

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    1. Smart move! 🙂 Every time I read one of those comment sections, I think, “Oi vey, Rara, what are you DOING?!” because they’re quite vicious. Anger definitely stems from fear… which I think is why it’s so complex to unravel! 🙂

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  23. Loved this. So true, Has my “mask” been a detriment to friendship and interactions with others? I try to put my mask down more often than I used to but still I think I use it far too much. Clearly I am blue. 🙂

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  24. This is one of those perfectly simple and poignant messages which carry large, complex, and terribly important truths that none of us want to look at too closely.
    Well said. 😉

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  25. Wonderful! People as a whole or a group are vastly different compared to individuals. This is something that fascinates me. Especially when it involves a group making a decision because it is easier than to say no. Ie: cults,mass murder of the Jews, Charles Manson and his followers, etc.

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  26. Your post reminds me of Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. The collective you can be seen as shame. The war you are in is a war of vulnerability. You know how much we love you, Rara. Rawr on! {{{hugs}}} kozo
    p.s.
    Love your father’s advice. “only noise makes peace.” I would add that blog posts make a lot of noise sometimes. 🙂

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  27. I know this is an old post but one assumption I can’t get down. Nothing you could tell me about yourself would keep me from having a cup of tea with you. I feel we must be able to accept our collective selves in total or might as well skip the tea altogether.

    Like

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