When life gives you lemons… image from Society6
“Pride works in direct opposition to internalized oppression. The latter provides fertile ground for shame, denial, self-hatred, and fear. The former encourages anger, strength, and joy. To transform self-hatred into pride is a fundamental act of resistance. In many communities, language becomes one of the arenas for this transformation. Sometimes the words of hatred and violence can be neutralized or even turned into words of pride. To stare down the bully calling cripple, the basher swinging the word queer like a baseball bat, to say ‘Yeah, you’re right. I’m queer, I’m a crip. So what?’ undercuts the power of those who want us dead.” — Eli Clare, “Freaks and Queers”
Back in October 2012, some things were set in motion that, without my knowledge or consent, have irrevocably altered the course of my and my family members’ lives, in all of their facets. This is no small thing. Now we are dealing with the aftermath.
Several things come to mind with these current events in my personal and professional life. One: The thing that I had thought was well within my right and duty (to speak without fear of reprisal, retaliation, or negative consequences so long as I do so with respect and professionalism) is, in fact, an illusion. Forces, and people who wield power over those forces, will do or see what they want, regardless of what contrary claims they made previously. Usually, these wants will be more about consolidating and maintaining power. I figured as much, but I just had to see how right these social psychologists and sociologists really are. Turns out, they are right A HECK OF A LOT. How naïve of me.
Another thing I learned (corollary A to point One): Those in power won’t be decent enough to give you the truth, even though they consider themselves to be decent human beings, have made noises as if they are decent human beings, and have previously made gestures towards decent human-being-like actions. Apparently, human decency has its limits. And depends largely on who is defining, viewing, and considering what constitutes as “decent.” And yeah, I knew that too. More silly on me.
To be safe and secure, one must liberally exercise self-censorship. I didn’t think I crossed the bounds. But, apparently, some people thought I did. And that’s what matters in the end. Not my record, not my work, not my blood, sweat, and tears that made their way into my products. Not me. None of it. What matters is their interests and their truth. It’s their world. And I just happen to live in it. This is so familiar to and smacks of unjust, discriminatory realities, it’s not even funny.
Second, the messages of transforming negative life events into positives are nice and useful. I’m doing that, sure. But I also have all this emotional gunk that I can’t just ignore. What to do? This question has been waking me up in the middle of the night since February 2013.
And now that I have achieved a (somewhat) clean break and can move forward without looking back? Well, the question still remains. I know what to do on a more practical, pragmatic level. But I need some psychic and spiritual healing, too. I mean, this goes back to the core of the professional vision I had set out for myself, the one I established way back during my library school days and articulated in my e-Portfolio in 2008. Have I veered from this path? If I have, how do I find my way back?
I have always said that I am much more interested in being a good, decent human being than being a good librarian. A person deeply committed to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Someone who strives to be continuously aware of structural, systemic, and individual inequalities and do the compassionate work necessary to even the playing ground. This is still true. Ultimately, in my mind, the librarian work I do and the social niche(s) academic libraries occupy are just means toward the positive transformation I’d like to see in the world. As we all know that the concepts of justice, inclusion, and equality can be tricky and slippery, what then do I do?
Got ideas for me? Some words of wisdom? Let me know through the comments.