I am a white “cis-gendered” heterosexual male. So, in terms of what they call “identity politics” these days I’m nobody. Because I’m everybody.
Of course I’m privileged and all of that. Nobody sees me on the street and yells out racial slurs, or makes unwanted sexual advances, or pulls me aside at airport security because I fit the profile of a terrorist, and so on and on. I know this. I feel outraged that this happens to some people, including close friends of mine. Some of this sort of stuff did happen to me when I lived as an immigrant and a racial minority in Asia and in Africa. So I get that it can make you feel really scared and helpless and mad. That’s how I felt.
Recently there’s been a bunch of hubbub over some doofusses who made a hashtag of “#StraightPrideDay” with the clear intention of seeing how riled up they could get the Internet. And it worked.
And maybe some of the responses to that hashtag got a few people who are kind of clueless and who’ve been saying, “Yeah! Why not straight pride?” to see their videos and memes, and get a sense of why LGBTQ pride exists in the first place. And that’s nice. It’s a win-win for both sides. Right?
I don’t have a community. I do have friends. And all those friends put together might be called a community. So I don’t mean that kind of community.
What I mean is that I have never felt connected to some wider sort of community out there of people who I don’t personally know but with whom I identify. Like I don’t feel connected to “white people” or “straight people” or “Buddhists” or “punks” ” or “Godzilla fans” or “Ohioans” or “Gen X” or “Americans” or “Americans who’ve lived in Asia” or “Americans who’ve lived in Africa” or any of that.
Some would define that as an example of privilege. They’d say I don’t identify because I’m not forced to identify. But it doesn’t really feel like privilege to me. People who have some community to identify with always seem so happy. They get to dress up and have parades and stuff and feel proud. So it mostly feels kind of shitty not to have a community, but I accept it as part of my life. It’s fine. No, really. I mean that. I do.
Probably, for someone who identifies with LGBTQ, it feels like #StraightPrideDay is yet another case of the majority trying to stomp all over their minority. And I can fully understand that. Yet I don’t see it exactly that way. Not completely.
I look at #StraightPrideDay and I think maybe there are people like me who feel envious of those who identify with these sorts of giant nebulous communities of strangers.
I see it and think that maybe people like me, who are nothings in the whole “identity politics” game, maybe we wish we identified with, let’s say, “straight people,” as in the case of the folks who made that hashtag. But, instead, these folks like me feel kind of lonely and “disempowered” by comparison. And maybe a whole lot of people feel like they don’t belong, but they haven’t been able to make peace with un-belonging. They want to belong. Desperately.
So I can see how some of the videos and memes and whatnot responding to #StraightPrideDay could be taken as saying to tribe-less people who feel kind of like me, “Nyah! Nyah! We have a community and you do~on’t! Ha! Ha! LOSERS!”
I doubt anyone consciously intends this. But I don’t doubt that a whole lot of people feel this way when they see that stuff. They must feel like they’ve been punched by someone who is much stronger than they are because they could never be that articulate and they will never belong.
#StraightPrideDay is misguided and stupid and potentially even dangerous. It could lead to bullying and worse. It ought to be resisted. It’s also especially nasty coming so soon after the tragedy in Orlando, Florida where a guy shot 50 people in a gay night club. I get that. I am not trying to justify #StraightPrideDay. I think #StraightPrideDay is dumb. I’d like to get at least get that much straight.
But I can see another side to it as well. I can see why it exists.
I can see how it feels to be adrift with no tribe to call your own. I know why someone might want to assert their own tribe and how they could do that in a really clumsy and clueless way. And I can see why they’d try to make a grab for membership in the biggest community they could grab on to.
Maybe you’ll say that this doesn’t matter because we cis-gendered white hetero males and females don’t even need a tribe since our tribe is everyone.
But from here it sort of feels like my tribe — and I’m only speaking for myself now — it feels like my tribe is no one. Like it’s impossible I will ever have any sort of tribe.
I get why that feeling would lead someone to want to join a movement like what Donald Trump is leading now in the USA or what the Brexit people in the UK were leading. I wouldn’t join Trump or the Brexiters. But that’s more because I don’t want to join anyone. I happen to be super-suspicious of all tribes — including tribes I could belong to.
But I can see how, in a social atmosphere like the one America is developing these days, someone like Trump has an almost irresistible appeal. He offers a lot of people who feel like they have no tribe, a tribe to belong to. And it’s a big tribe! Bigger than Trump’s hands even!
If you think that being part of a tribe will fix your loneliness, I can see why you’d join the Trump supporters or Brexiters or whatever other tribe might be courting you — the Mormons, the Scientologists, the Manson Family, the NRA, the Dr. Pepper Generation… I totally get that.
And, I also know that I don’t know how to say this. I feel inarticulate. Like I’m just mumbling incoherently with marbles in my mouth. Because I’m pretty sure that I’ll get a lot of anger in response to the clumsy way I’m trying to express this. And I’m not trying to get anyone angry. Really.
So I apologize in advance to everyone I have now succeeded in offending.
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July 4, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio Zero Defex TBA
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September 10-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 2-Day Retreat
September 14, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland Zazen and Discussion
September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat
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September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 3, 2016 Turku, Finland, Talk about spirituality and popular culture
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October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
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October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
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October 18, 2016 Salzburg, Austria
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
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Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
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