Being and Nothingness

A reflection.

Some book spines
ffPhoto by Max Muselmann on Unsplash

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

I am a White person in a male body, 52 years old. I am married to a woman. I have a child, a stable job, and a home. I am so ordinary.

I could live the rest of my life out with my head down, taking full advantage of the privileges of my station and letting others fend for themselves.

In so doing, I would suppress major parts of myself. I would also continue to be complicit in feeding the three-headed hydra of White Supremacy, the Patriarchy, and Cishet Primacy.

This is what so many people in my position choose to do. It’s the easy choice.

For me, it is not-being.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

Hamlet, literature’s most famous emo boy, is speaking of the choice between suicide and continuing to live his miserable life as an ultrarich White man who, for his troubles, has to live with the uncle who killed his father.

But here among lesser beings, this choice is meaningful. While the nobler choice may feel like cultural suicide, it needn’t be physical suicide.

Do I tread water in the safe part of the stream, taking on the safe mantle of White Straight Male, complicitly silent in the face of racism, sexism, and anti-queer bias? Quietly suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

Or do I take arms against them, living my true self and doing my part to tear down the systems that benefit my golem-self? Swimming out into the sea of troubles in order to destroy it?

With the exception of my disability (a prosthetic left eye), my differences are easy to render invisible. It would be so easy to succumb to appeasement, to fold myself into the mainstream.

It would harm others, but it would be safer for me.

I have done so in the past: My willingness to be myself, fully myself, in public has waxed and waned inversely to my fear of repercussions. I have let fear box me in, multiple times over my life.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.

And while I have pressed against the walls, I still let fear box me in.

The system functions based on that fear. It persists based on that fear.

Sure, there are those who enjoy the three-headed hydra, who get drunk off the milk it sprays from its nipples. I do not know if these drunkards are salvageable.

But there are so many of us who respond from fear, who maintain the system because to rise against it is seen as futility and pointless risk.

These are the people who need to speak up, to stop letting “the native hue of resolution” be tainted and derailed by “the pale cast of thought”.

I am one of these people.

And I need to remind myself of this routinely, because the hydra is so large, and has driven its tentacles so deeply into my flesh. The easy route of non-being, of simple surviving; the hard route of being, at the risk of what can be lost.

I am White, but I am not a man. I am queer. I support women. I support BIPOC. I cannot abide an oppressive system.

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