I thought, maybe that’s why I got vexed.
A psychological cocktail of sorts. Two parts abandonment and disillusionment due to the estrangement of my closest friend and one part Quakebook 2:46 /Stay-jin/disaster survivor PTSD or whatever you wanna call that mixer. That might even explain the falling out with my friend for it occurred in the weeks immediately following the Tohoku Quake. I’m certainly no authority on the tale-tell signs of PTSD, so that may be something I need to look into.
I gave that idea due consideration…but, nah. Mumbo-Jumbo I concluded.
But, I knew it was something and that I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully until I sorted it out.
Then something occurred to me the other night as I lay in my bed. Last week, a few days before I’d received the text in question, someone else had suggested that “Japan is in the eye of the beholder.” If you recall, one of the guest DJs at my Blog party, a relative newcomer to the Japan blogosphere, Miss Verity, a black woman, had said something similar. She’d said, with don’t get me wrong written between every line:
I read Loco’s blog a lot, and I was steeling myself for the sight of empty train seats to my right and left and people crossing the street to get away from me. I was dreading children running and screaming at the sight of me. No such thing has happened, in fact sometimes salarymen get a little too close on the train, if you know what I’m sayin’. Maybe it’s because I’m small and non-threatening. Or because I’m a woman. Or, maybe it’s because I’m oblivious —
And, I didn’t get her wrong. I knew where she was coming from.
But, maybe it was just the two of them, coming in such rapid succession, like a jab and an upper-cut, that had me reeling at center ring. If they had been white people I’m pretty sure it would not have troubled me so much (for reasons I’ve discussed numerous times) but I think I gave their estimations more tenebility due to race.
I wondered why…I mean, it couldn’t, hell, I couldn’t be that simple, could I?
It didn’t take long for me to answer that question though.
The answer is of course no!
They are not the first black people living in Japan I’ve come across-either in the flesh or on the Internet- that have challenged my assertions and assessment of the situation on the ground here. And, they won’t be the last. At the level and frequency that I experience events that cannot be rationalized as anything but overt acting out of an almost instinctual “you are a danger to me and mine and should be avoided by any means necessary,” I can’t say for certain why they don’t experience it or can’t see it. Maybe one day I will.
But the more I thought about it the more I realized that that wasn’t the reason I got upset at Homeslice.
The answer that came to me, and allowed me to sleep well the other night, was actually simpler and yet more complex at the same time.
Doubt. Just plain old doubt.
You see, I’ve devoted a lot of irretrievable chunks of my life and energy to sharing my thoughts and feelings on these matters. I’m not really worried so much that what I see on a daily basis is a figment of my imagination. I know it’s real. My biggest doubt is: has all of this effort been for naught? Who gives a fuck? What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck do I discuss these ideas? Is this the best or even a productive use of my energy and talent?
This is the doubt that taunts me. I repress it, though. This repression is alleviated by writing, sure, but the doubt never really goes away. Apparently it just sits in ambush, like a dark force in some Pandora’s Box, waiting for someone with the key- someone I’ve handed the key willingly, for that’s what friends do, right?- waiting for that person to come, open it up and unleash it on me.
They say if you can reach even one person then you’ve done plenty, and I know I’ve reached quite a few. But, more often than I’d like, I find myself beating (or in my case writing) my head up against a wall. A deaf but not mute wall. I know that’s just the way it is and I embrace that because I know in the end it will make me a better writer, better able to present and defend my ideas, whatever they might be. That, someday, I’d be able to find the right words and put these words together in just the right way. Not perfection, but eloquent, persuasive, incisive, inspiring…and entertaining in the best sense of the word.
I remember a movie called “The American President” starring Michael Douglass. It was a pretty good movie but I always think about a line from the speech he gave near the end of the film. It’s a line that has helped me often. It goes:
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.
I guess what I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have really blamed Homeslice. It was my doubts vexing me via his text. If it didn’t exist his words wouldn’t have bothered me at all.
On my blog I deal with dissenting views all the time; Some times better than other times, granted, but, as Michael Douglass suggested and I believe, this is a tenet of advanced citizenship (minus the “American” part. I like to think of it as Human citizenship). If a writer or anyone for that matter does not have the courage of their convictions then he/she had better work on getting convicted.
Living in Japan has been a challenge, to put it mildly, and that challenge has had the side effect (or side benefit) of easing the process of strengthening conviction. (thank you japan) I just think that I have a vulnerable area reserved for friends and family. A part of me that says things like “these people know the real you”- you know?- like that’s a contradictory thing. It tells me that I should give what they say as much credence as I give my own convictions, because they know me.
What a crock, right?
Anyway, Homeslice called me last night and asked me to help him move tomorrow. Like nothing had happened.
And I said, “aight, see you tomorrow.”
Cuz, in reality…and please don’t get me wrong… but nothing has happened.
Who the hell is this Cat, Loco, anyway? Click here!