When it became obvious what a dumb and cruel and spiritually and financially and militarily ruinous mistake our war in Vietnam was, every artist worth a damn in this country, every serious writer, painter, stand-up comedian, musician, actor and actress, you name it, came out against the thing. We formed what might be described as a laser beam of protest, with everybody aimed in the same direction, focused and intense. This weapon proved to have the power of a banana-cream pie three feet in diameter when dropped from a stepladder five-feet high.
-- Kurt Vonnegut
I read a recent article about the DNC trying to re-strategize after the crushing defeat they just suffered. The point that really struck me was the idea that "the core values were mutually shared but the targets of concern were scattered..." This is the difficulty that faces not just Democrats but all of the Progressive Left. We pretty much all agree on the core values of equal opportunities, equal pay, the enforcement of civil rights for every single American, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, police reform, prison reform, environmental protections and scaling back our use of carbon-based fossil fuels, and the like but we can't agree as to where to focus that "laser beam of protest, with everybody aimed in the same direction."
I mentioned this to my wife. She said, without hesitation, "We should start with the environment."
I replied, "I think we should focus on economic disparity."
In our own household, two mid- to far left white progressives see the same problems but want to start on different tentacles of the Hydra.
When I talk to younger people, it's reform of the systematic racism in the country or the destruction of rape culture. When I talk to older people, it's health care reform and taxes.
In the well-meant creation of a march on Washington by women, the efforts are derailed because those motivated to actually organize the march are accused of "protest appropriation" and failing to recognize the many divisions among women as more aggrieved and thus more important than white women. And also, let's bitch endlessly about wearing fucking safety pins as if the simple gesture is nothing more than a sign of privilege rather than an expression of empathy.
No one can ever truly be an "ally" because the meaning of the word has been perverted to recognize a sense of identity politics that didn't exist within generations before (as if reframing the legacies of the past with a modern lens is either historically valid or remotely productive) and to emphasize the "Shut Up and Listen to Me" demand.
Someone suggests we find creative ways to convince those who may have voted for Trump for reasons other than racial animus or sexual dominance and the immediate cry is that "I do not owe the oppressor my empathy" which has fuckall to do with the initial suggestion.
My surprise at the success of the Rightwing of the country lessens with every passing day.
So, in keeping with the suggestion of Mr. Vonnegut, the artist's way through the shitstorm is to simply ignore the fringes of both sides. Ignore the screaming, hateful white men who paint swastikas on homes. Ignore the screaming, rage-filled social justice wannabes and their stranglehold on moral indignation. Ignore the rhetorical noise from both self righteously furious factions. Yes. The messages couldn't be more different but they sound exactly the same...
And create. Create art that defies the divisions, that refuses to accept the hyperbole and stands powerfully in the midst of the apes throwing shit at one another. Perhaps the laser beam can point us all in a direction of learning to work together to solve the problems of injustice and disparity for all Americans.
Or maybe it's just better to create that giant cream pie in the face of so much dysfunction cuz who doesn't like pie?