Dare To Be Shrill
Last night when I, again, couldn’t get to sleep and sat there composing tweets against this illegitimate regime and listing every terrible nagging pain in my body I thought again, why bother? So many other people do this better than you. So many other people are out there protesting and calling and doing everything right. Why bother? Why get on twitter daily and sound like (in my own terrible judgmental brain) that shrill, ugly screamer you’ve tried all your life to avoid being? Why not go back to only writing about your own writing and the writing of others that you love?
Today I received one of the many tinyletters I signed up for, but rarely find time to read. This one was from Carrie Frye and it was short and had poetry and I always like Carrie’s letters (I like all the letters I sign up for, but sometimes find them too painful to read for reason that usually have to do with my own insecurities, but whatever), but this one was short and connected two of the things I’ve been worrying about since even before the election: my vanishing ability to write long coherent pieces, and my misgivings about being politically vocal. She also included pieces from some of the same poems I’ve been reading over and over (Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Rio Cortez). One of the only things I’ve been able to write since the election has been poetry. Maybe it’s the fragmentary nature of poems, the refusal to adhere to a traditional narrative (that I’m incapable of writing right now) while engaging the reader in ways prose can’t, but something about poetry feels right. Then this:
“The first issue was on ideal readers — about how sometimes when you’re stuck writing, it’s because you’ve picked “the wrong Reader to preside over a project.” Usually it’s someone you’d love to impress and who you’ve also decided is impossible to impress. And naturally enough, faced with such an audience, you find you can’t write.
I was thinking about this the other day because I realized that whenever I’ve said something despairing about our current political situation and any actions I’m taking related to it, it’s been as if I’m in conversation with this sort of Hostile Reader.”
This struck me like exactly the right note for the tuning fork that is my brain right now. It spoke directly to the hostile conversation I was having with my insomniac self last night about who gives a shit what I think, millions of others are saying it much better than I am, etc. Thankfully, finally another voice managed to cut through that shitty hostile, always demanding, always insulting voice in my brain to remind me that if everyone decided that their voice was only one of millions and they didn’t need to bother, we’d be in worse shape that we’re in now. It’s only that millions of us have become actively active politically (rather than passively actively signing online petitions and voting in the big elections) that we’ve been able to stop this administration’s bulldozer fascism. We’ve managed to turn many of the Democrats into the fighting reps we desperately need right now. We’ve managed to get some of the press to do their jobs in a way they refused to do before the election and actually investigate Trump and his staff’s corruption in terms of business interest and ties to Russia. We’ve done a hell of a lot. Just by yelling, calling, tweeting, retweeting (and I can’t stress retweeting and reblogging enough as a tactic, just boosting the signal of many of the other marginalized voices can be a huge thing).
When you feel like you need to shut up and stop being so shrill, so ‘dramatic’ about what’s happening in this country, maybe think about who wants you to shut up. Who that hostile reader/audience actually is. Who benefits from all of us listening to that hostile voice (which sounds a hell of a lot like my conservative, sexist, racist, homophobic relatives)? It’s not us who benefit. It’s not the marginalized (the LGBTQ, muslim, black, POC, immigrant) people who benefit from our silence. If we all listen to that voice and shut up or even tone it down a little, they’ve won. And we’ve all lost.
Carrie Frye cuts through the BS: “It helped me to realize that — it makes it easier to ignore the voice and keep on anyway, imperfect and all. If that voice has been in your head too the past weeks, I urge you to give it a wink and an affectionate pat and tell it to go get stuffed.”