I’m thankful for the people who read my last post (“Non Sequiturs,”) and told me it gave them some laughs. I had fun writing it. God knows we’ve all needed to read, hear, or watch something humorous recently.
It would be easy for me to compose a similar essay because after writing that last one, my love and I purchased one of those robot vacuum cleaners. I’d love to describe the adventures we’ve had with it so far. As per my sister’s request, I’ll do that soon.
Right now, two situations are renting space in my head. One is the inhumanity on view in Ukraine. The other is the desperate lunacy spewing from some of the GOP legislators who, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, continue to hurl their weapon-grade questions during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court Justice hearing.
No doubt you’re watching the twenty-four-hour coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And no doubt you’re wincing at the scenes of destruction, mass graves, separated families, children holding on to their stuffed animal toys with one hand and grasping their mother’s or older sibling’s hand with the other. Perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that Putin is unhinged, insane. How else could one explain the slash and burn orders he’s given the commanders of the Russian armed forces?
Our need to understand Putin and predict his modus operandi may be difficult to satisfy, partly because we’re hampered by our own set of cultural mores, our uniquely American rules of right vs. wrong, rules which we violate even as we profess to practice them. We’ve left scant room to consider it’s possible that Putin’s motivations may be attributed in some measure to his being Russian. Does he feel duty bound to conquer territories and people, to make Russian the official language of all who live in Ukraine?
Is he all that different from other political or national leaders?
Here’s what I mean. Is Putin’s order forbidding the Russian media to say or print the word “war” somewhat similar to Florida’s legislation prohibiting K-3rd grade teachers from discussing issues of gender identity or sexuality (other than heterosexual) with their students? Does “Don’t say WAR” remind you of “Don’t say GAY?”
Maybe Putin is an uber-angry nationalist deeply resentful of the break-up of the U.S.S.R. and determined to return his country to the Russia that existed during the last century. Perhaps the U.S. politicians who pander to trump remain silent about the slaughter in Ukraine and encourage the white nationalists’ violence realize the extent of that group’s anger and resentment. Perhaps their failure to criticize Putin is a thinly disguised “Atta’ boys” to those who are determined to return America to the days of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.
And then, there’s this… I’m a Black person watching Russia’s war. I have had to balance my sorrow for the Ukrainians with the all too familiar scenes of people of color in Ukraine being denied access to rescue buses carrying refugees to safety in favor of white citizens who are seeking to escape.
Dear Rosa Parks, we can’t seem to avoid that bus situation. This time it’s not an order to sit in the back. We can’t even board the damn vehicle.
Dear Readers, it took me more than a minute to calm myself in the face of this mixed metaphor of oppression. After a while I concluded that totalitarianism was as huge a problem as racism.
I risk losing some of your support when I say that presently the destruction of a democracy holds the same weight as the significance of racism. The tenets of democracy are being torn apart in quite a few nations, including the U.S. These principles, including the adherence to the rules of law are the most powerful means by which people, all people, have a chance to express their/our thoughts without the fear of arrest, prosecution, or persecution. Although it’s wounded, democracy remains the best hope for those of us who confront macro or micro acts of racism. Please make me aware if you know of other systems of government that would support our struggles for equality.
The hearings for the next Supreme Court’s Justice…
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is brilliant. More than that, she’s “people smart.” She had to possess multiple intelligences in order to flourish-while-Black-and-female at Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Her demeanor and her knowledge of the law obviously unnerve a few of the GOP inquisitors. You know that to be true when you hear their innuendo-laced questions posed in petulant, raised voices ready to interrupt her before she can finish her answers.
Black women’s brilliance has a long history, one that at times has been erased or denied. I want all Americans to know that Judge Jackson is one of so many Black women who lived their lives in earlier times, who stand beside her today, and who will be born destined to display their brilliance in the future.
We’ve been here. We are here. We shall be here… without fear or favor.
Renée Bess is the author of five novels, and the co-story collector of the Goldie-winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars. Her work earned her a 2019 Alice B. Readers Award. Renée’s newest book is titled Between a Rock and a Soft Place (Flashpoint Publications.) http://www.reneebess.com
© Renée Bess 2022