Flawed offerings, a month into war
Thank you for this vulnerable articulation of your self doubts, inner critic, and inter/intrapersonal wrestlings. For being inside out with us. For taking steps and actions. For publicly growing. For showing us the power of sharing.
I generally like your writing, Garrett, but today’s piece especially resonated. It is a fair question to ask why we are upset about this war, while completely silent on so many others in Africa, so many where combatants are child soldiers, pressed into service, the stakes involve supplying American companies with materials needed to produce luxury goods. Part of being a white person with interest in dismantling white privilege means recognizing that people have every right to ask difficult questions of me, when historically they would get replies that do not satisfy, do not meet the mark.
I am a United Methodist minister and have spoken about this conflict from the pulpit a few times, the first being right after the horror Hamas inflicted just over one month ago. The rest have been in response to what people expect to hear given the flood of bigotry since then. I encouraged congregants to join me at an interfaith service of solidarity at a conservative synagogue. More than once I needed to address the fears of those with good reason to believe it would be anti-Palestinian, or pro American foreign policy, or pro the actions of the IDF. I am grateful to be in position to say something publicly, and regularly reminded that quite a lot of people are expecting to see people choose a side uncritically, giving little credence to the idea that a person could be against all of it.
Garrett! You are a Quaker too? I knew there was something thoughtful and non-violent about your writing. Please keep sharing your thoughts.
Ah Garrett I appreciate your bravery in this writing & your work. I didn't know you were a Quaker either & I'm happy to hear you have that support. I couldn't have done/do my civil disobedience without my faith. I knew someone once who wanted to self-immolate. I'm glad they didn't - suffering piled on suffering. We need to live and love, however hard that is. Sending love x
It is heart breaking. We say that all the time, routinely, but this time we mean a human heart, breaking. Our hearts, like always, are vulnerable to breaking based on what we know. It’s clear that there is much we do not and may likely never know, not just facts about number of deaths nor families with no living beings, but rather the volume of tears and blood and pain and blazing hatred. There will be photos and press releases and so much spin and we have so much inertia. I think I understand isolationism better now, even more viscerally than I did during Vietnam.
It may not have felt like you were providing clarity when writing this, but I think that is why it feels clarifying to me, demonstrating that there are no easy answers right now and everyone is mired in a sea of voices. I feel like I am surrounded by so much contradictory discourse about what is and is not the best action to take from people who I respect and have always considered myself ideologically aligned with, but who are diverging right now in ways I've never quite seen on other topics. It makes me feel like I can't act because the action will be wrong, but also, not acting is the least effective thing. It is good to be reminded that nobody has the one, correct, magical 5-step plan to immediate collective liberation. The reason I feel like can't do anything is because no individual civilian can just do x, y, and z and save us all forever. It's more about as many people as possible caring enough to do what we can to continuously support and motivate each other and most importantly never give up in the long run.
Thank you for your tender holding of yourself and everyone.
Forgive me if this is beside the point, but I am thinking about the construction of Whiteness and my experience with how it can differ depending on country. For instance, we have the "one drop rule" in the U.S., which means that anyone, no matter how White they look are considered Black if they have any Black ancestry however remote. When I was in Cuba I found that this rule was flipped on its head because Cuba was colonized by Spain and Spain has significant Moorish history. So any number of people from Spain are quite dark-skinned. In Cuba, if you have a single Spanish ancestor, no matter how remote and no matter how dark-skinned you are, you claim to be Spanish and Spaniards are read as White. One of the tragedies of the Mariel boatlifts back in the day was that the vast majority of people who came over because Radio Marti insisted, Come to America! The streets are paved with gold! You will be free! were dark-skinned Cubans who thought of themselves as Spanish (read: White) and then they got here and found out that in the U.S. they were considered Black and subject to all of the systemic racism that all Black people are in the U.S.
I've seen commentary by folks in the last month about the number of non-White Israeli Jews there are and how it feels simplistic to refer to Israel as an extension of White supremacy. I feel like there's something in here worth considering about how Whiteness functions and is constructed in different contexts but I don't yet know how to articulate it fully. As in, is Whiteness an identity in Israel on a personal or structural level? We know that certain Jews have been rolled into Whiteness here in the U.S., but perhaps other Israeli Jews wouldn't be. And what does any of that have to do with White supremacy as a global phenomenon? There probably isn't a single or simple answer, but I find myself thinking about it anytime someone seems to be referencing White supremacy in this conversation in a way that leaves no door open for nuance or complication.
Thank you for this piece, it felt like a safe place to feel out what i've been holding in this past month. The grief is astronomical and the dissonance between trying to understand what's going on and also live a daily life I know is weighing on everyone. A better future is possible and people like you Mr. Bucks help us get there faster
Your paragraph about being "awfully self righteous" says it all for me. Thanks for articulating a coalescing the conflicting thoughts bouncing around it my head.
I once had a whole book proposal called Every Time I Didn’t Light Myself on Fire. In other words, I relate so much to this. Your humanity and your clarity in the face of complexity is so valuable.
What a mess. My thoughts get so confused but thank you for your words on this. It's helping me to focus.....
Is there ever any justification for war, for killing, for violence? In my privileged voice it is easy to say “no” and in my frail, human voice I say, “probably yes”; “probably” because the probability is that if I was threatened or someone I love was threatened or hurt, I would fight back. Embracing this fact, knowing that I could very easily be the aggressive other (and that indeed I am on a micro level often) humbles me to confront the only human I have any sort of control over - myself.