Monday, February 08, 2010

Dear Incredibly Active Leftist Friend


Sent to you by Vanessa via Google Reader:


via The Faster Times by Joseph Cassara on 2/8/10

I am going to be brutally honest with you here. You are starting to make me feel like a bad person. I would like to think of myself as a good person, and in fact, I am a very good person. I am great with children and the elderly. But, dear friend, you have gotten into the habit of bombarding me with Facebook invites to events that I simply cannot attend. And this makes me feel incredibly guilty.

I greatly admire your activism on campus. Where ever there is a cause, you are there with your picket sign. You food strike every other weekend, it seems, for the people of Burma, for the people of The Congo, for the people of Darfur, for the people of Haiti. And quite frankly, I am better able to enjoy my hearty, warm meals knowing that your hungry stomach is single-handedly bringing justice to this cruel world. Fight the good fight. Power to the people.

But, you see, the reason I am writing to you, my friend, is to ask you to please stop with your overly generous Facebook event invitations. Sometimes I feel like you are inviting each one of your 889 friends on campus, because there is simply no way you are considering if the event is right for the individual. While I would love to partake in a dialogue on the shared experience of black single mothers living in the inner-city, I can't because—well—I am not black, a single mother, nor have I ever lived in the inner-city. I feel like every time I log-in to see what someone has written on my wall, there are dozens of event invites—and they are all from you.

Don't get me wrong, I love Costa Rican transgendered immigrant causes, I feel for the paraplegic lesbian farmers of the greater Pacific Northwest diaspora, and the human rights of one-eyed eskimos definitely pull at my heart strings. But if I were to attend an activist meeting for causes that are so foreign to me, I would have nothing of substance to provide. And this makes me feel like a horrible person.

You see, the very idea of a dialogue is one that is inherently specific to culture and history. One speaker in your group may feel safe knowing that a conversation is happening, while another person may not. Events on the shared experience assume that, after identity formation, there is such a thing as a shared experience. It assumes that agents occupy equal positions of power and that to speak about issues is what constitutes agreement and unity within a certain subculture.  We live in a society where racial stratification is an unfortunate norm, but dialogic-based events only continue the cycle by reinforcing this notion of shared experience, this notion that identity is socially constructed, and in essence, perpetuated by performative acts. These events are nothing more than a theatre for such acts.

I attended one such meeting two years ago on campus, dear friend. I'm not sure if you were there. We talked about the spread of HIV/AIDS in various socioeconomic populations. The conversation was very tangential and eventually, we all forgot that AIDS was the topic that originally brought us together. We talked about white guilt and post traumatic slave syndrome. At one point, a petite blond girl in the back started crying and personally apologized to the black kids for slavery. That's right, she personally apologized for slavery. And I remembered thinking, what the fuck is happening right now?

Dear friend, my challenge for you is to think about whether these unity-through-dialogue meetings actually free the individual, or whether they establish an exclusionary norm of false solidarity that rules out the possibility that the borders of identity formation can be disrupted, challenged, seen in a light other than your own.

Unfortunately, dear friend, I cannot attend your Facebook events because I believe that any effort towards singular identities is a reverse-discourse that mimics that very strategy you are working against: the strategy of the oppressor to offer you a set of terms to adhere to.

From Your Friend Who Dislikes Categorization


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