Hi there! And thank your thoughtful consideration of this essay and for inviting me and other readers to explore another dimension of the conversation.
You raise some very points. I couldn’t agree with you more … yes, we people are complicated beings. We are capable of changing from one state into another, we all have the potential of becoming better humans than we used to be. We’re also capable of having feelings, maintaining beliefs, and committing acts that contradict not only themselves but who we are.
I’m not familiar with “The Unit,” but I am familiar with David Mamet and the multi-faceted nature of characters. So I kinda get what you mean without specifically knowing the Jonas Blane character. It sounds like a killer show that I’ll more than likely check out.
I’m painfully aware that real people are much like Mamet’s characters. I readily see it in myself and others. Please know, I don’t think of people are caricatures or cartoons. People are fearfully and wonderfully made, brimming with nuance and contradiction. I write with the intent of shining a light on a specific aspect of an issue. I’ve learned that few things in life are not binary. I write with the intention of helping people resolve the tug of war between competing issues they may have, knowing that people are rarely 100% this or that, but fall somewhere on a spectrum between those issues.
For example, people who’ve been raised in racist environments learn to embrace a group of viewpoints about People of Color. And I’ve seen people abandon those viewpoints and pick up more inclusive worldviews. As with anything, a paradigm shift is a process. It’s rarely either-or. My writing points to the opposites, the extremes, with the hopes that people understand that it truly is possible for those with even the most entrenched beliefs about anything to move from away from one side and more towards the other.
When I point to privilege, I’m speaking to people who are aware of privilege — whether they know it by that name or not — and choose to pretend it doesn’t exist. Heck, I was raised in the south and recognized privilege when I saw it in play, but didn’t know there was a specific name for it until only a few years ago. Trust me, Avi, when I write about hot topics, I write about them in the context of the whole, three-dimensional person. The reason I don’t write from place of “if you’re kinda feeling like this,” is because it sounds soft and coddling.
In How I Talk to People About Racism, the two tenets I stress are 1) speaking to one another with respect and care, and 2) active listening when silent. The “care” that I refer to points to realizing that while the other person might say things that are unnerving or that you may disagree with, give them the benefit of the doubt and forge on in an attempt to better understand them. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. A person could take that to mean, afford your fellow man the same benefit of the doubt, the same wiggle room, grace, that you would like extended to you.
People viewed as cartoon characters don’t get that treatment because a two-dimensional prejudice short circuits any chance of seeing the “other” as a fully three-dimensional person. Frankly, I think that’s issue alone has birthed the majority of this country’s ailments. We fail to see one another as fully human.
“What are we to make of the career of Teddy Roosevelt?” you ask.
Like I said above, (in this case historical figures), it’s best to take a well-informed look at their lives, what they stood for, what did they accomplish, what was the net affect upon the people and times in which they lived, and their impact on the world in which we live today. But there are certain events in a person’s life that overshadow others. Ted Bundy murdered college co-eds, he may have loved puppies and made sizable financial contributions to the American Heart Association; but it all comes down to context. Know what I mean? What’s the net affect of their contributions to mankind? I know someone else on Medium’s said this better than I have here with my very simplistic example, but you get my point, right? We have to look at all that stuff and go from there.
And you know what? Unlike Jonas Blane, I do believe people can change, because I’ve seen it happen.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and questions. I look forward to hearing from you again.