I didn’t know what to blog about today, until Hardingfele suggested our conversation regarding the Public Radio writing contest (you may remember my post about their unwritten rules), so here goes: Hardingfele sent me her story today, and I said it wouldn’t win because it wasn’t the right style. She asked what it was missing, and I said:
“I don’t know how to explain it. They are looking for a very particular style of writing, which I neither like nor can emulate. There is a pervading sense of sorrow, and the protagonist is flawed but comes to realize it by the end of the story. I don’t have any interest in reading about over privileged white women realizing that their lives aren’t perfect because they are focusing on unimportant things, unless it is that they have a spiritual epiphany, which they never did in the winning stories. To me, that is the only thing that could fill all these women’s yearnings. So you have to address the angst that only a spiritual life can fix, but without bringing spirituality into it.”
She said, “You nailed that, exactly.” That got us thinking about how we both have leftist sensibilities, but upper middle class white liberals do drive us crazy, and I think these stories provide the key. When you don’t have God in your life, but your material needs are all fulfilled, you feel a deep longing that people who either are striving to survive or who have a relationship with God don’t have. Then you look around you, trying to fill that emptiness but not with God, and you settle on trying to change things that are unjust, but you focus on the wrong things. For example, Hardingfele told me about a “Safety Pin Ally” thing, in which whites full of liberal guilt wear safety pins to show their solidarity with people of color. Now I am not a person of color, so I cannot speak for them, but I imagine such a move would strike me as an empty gesture. How hard is it to wear a safety pin? What does it cost the wearer? It does not involve any work or having to face the fact that you do have advantages because of your own whiteness. I have been thinking for the last few months about what my response to racism could be that would be helpful, and I am thinking of volunteer work. It seems more productive to ask the victims of racism what they actually need (mentoring?) rather than wearing a pin they never asked you to wear.