two aphorisms and word choice

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This will be a brief entry, as I believe that the bulk of your media consumption -in light of the awakening white America appears to be in some way undergoing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder after years of people of color begging to have their pleas for justice and equality heard- should rightly be focused primarily on amplifying, listening to, and the avid reading and concurrent action inspired by black voices.

Thus I will be limiting this week to what may seem like a semantic argument, but something needs to be made clear. When it’s us, we the people, our language is semantics. When it’s those that hold power, it’s the law. It’s the language of the oppressor. It allows every legal interpreter and lawmaker the wiggle room to bend and twist the words into such hideous shapes and contexts that one can barely recognize the framework from which they were created. It’s how the interpretation of the 13th amendment abolished formal, antebellum slavery while paving the way for an entirely new, legal form to emerge. It’s how the “war on terror” was sold to us, it’s what prevents any action on gun violence, and it’s what allows corporations and CEO’s to make off with all of our money while we as a society argue over table scraps.

Our language is important, too. Even at a colloquial level. So let’s start with a popular aphorism which you may all be familiar with: a jack of all trades is a master of none. This implies, incorrectly, that being skilled at many subjects or practices while allegedly mastering none is a poor practice for one’s self and society at large. However, that’s not the whole expression. The original, complete expression is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” It is almost always better, the aphorism suggests, to have a broad diversity of subjects one might not necessarily excel in, but are at least mildly adept in.

Similarly, lately, the phrase “a few bad apples” has been bandied around with a cynical dismissiveness to somehow explain away the cries of the suffering, the bereaved, and the perennially terrorized with an easily digestible explanation for why some cops are murderers and racists. This, of course, abdicates the rest of the entire phrase: “a few bad apples spoils the barrel.”

So, are there still good, honest, cops serving in our country? Of course. However, the culture of silence and internal power structures amongst the ranks of “blue lives” has forced many of them into silence, which is complicity, and therefore, for the purposes of the work to be done, as harmful as the violence and subjugation itself.

I have found my fingers empty of words for the last few months. I have not known what to write; feeling instead of typing up musings of various levels of (alleged) humor, my time is better spent learning, advocating, protesting with voracity, and especially listening. I will be returning with regular, and actually frequent entries in the not too distant future, however, I in no way feel comfortable with taking up any space, nominal or otherwise, that could be spent listening to black voices in this time of internal undulation of existing power structures.

Perhaps, this is a necessary and healthy entropy we are experiencing that’s simply going incognito enshrouded in fear and doom. Perhaps everything that was holding us back is finally being properly seen by everyone in society, like a CAT scan revealing the true severity of the cancerous facets of our nations body.

There is no neat little bow on top for all of this sentiment. Simply put, people are dying that didn’t have to or deserve to and with a breakneck frequency in the United States.

How will you remember your role in this history?