A very dear friend has told me for years that my problem is I have too many choices. He is right and I do realize that it is a privilege to not only have the freedom but the where-with-all to have more than one or even several options available when facing life’s many circumstances. Being a white middle class male in America in 2016 carries with it enough cache to often have more than one alternative when faced with life’s various challenges, and this has been the case for most of my life.
I suppose my queerness and later in the dance my HIV infection have somewhat limited my choices but to be honest when I look around at the rest of humanity I still have it pretty good. It is interesting that these two things, queerness and HIV infection, where not choices but apparently unavoidable realities. I realized at an early age that being attracted to men was not a choice on my part but something very ingrained out of the box.
I am quite certain I was infected with HIV in the early 1980’s before the causative agent had actually been identified. And I am not implying that folks getting infected today are choosing this but rather they assume that they are either not at risk or they are in the short-run choosing pleasure over possible consequences down the road, a very human response in many situations. I am frequently reminded of Jerry Garcia’s answer when asked why people do drugs and he replied, “Because they make them feel good”.
The challenge then becomes how do I best address my choices especially in a culture that worships “more is better”. I read this past week that Americans, in droves apparently, are resorting back to buying large gas guzzlers and fewer hybrid automobiles in the past couple years now that gasoline is cheap again. Depressing news for arctic sea ice and a whole lot more.
One way to tackle multiple choices for a particular problem or situation would be to ask what is “enough”. I stumbled on a parting wish shared by a mother to her daughter right before she boarded a plane and the words spoken were “May you have enough”. And as with more of my philosophical guidance than I care to readily admit to these days this came from a Facebook post. I was though taken with it enough to Google the phrase “May You Have Enough”.
So it turns out this may have originated as an Irish Blessing, author unknown. This seems to fit nicely with one definition of “enough “ and that is “as much or as many as required”. For me personally and my life choices these days I can ask is a bicycle enough for transportation or do I need a car. Are beans enough or is eating chicken or fish really necessary for adequate protein intake. Is Natural Grocers enough or do I need to cop to the much shorter walk and shop at Whole Foods. When I need a break is a short mountain trip enough or do I need to get on a plane to go somewhere. Is my air conditioning set at 75 degrees enough or do I need it cooled to 70, and on and on.
There is though a second definition of “enough” that struck me as very appropriate especially this past week and that would be to indicate that one is unwilling to tolerate any more of something undesirable. I see a fundamental message of the Black Lives Matter movement being simply “enough”. Enough is enough and no more will be tolerated.
The essence of this is so difficult it seems for many of us white folks to grasp. In part I suppose we can be left off the hook because of the blatantly revisionist history, dating back before the revolution of 1776, that we have been spoon-fed. The root motivators for the American Revolution are much more complex than issues around a tax on tea. The historian Gerald Horne has written extensively on this topic and a 2014 interview with him on Democracy Now is a vital listen for all trying to grapple with the roots of racism and racial tensions in America today. Check out the link above for the interview.
What the revolution of 1776 was significantly about was protecting the institution of slavery. The Second Amendment was actually about ensuring the preservation of the Slave Patrol Militias, which were early forerunners of out police departments. The term well-regulated militia being actually a shortened sanitized phrasing. Here is a link to an analysis piece on the connection between the Second Amendment and the need to protect the institution of slavery:
“Slavery and the Second Amendment: Slave Patrol Militias”
If this suggestion seems a bit far-fetched consider the very muted response from the NRA about the recent killings of two black men who were supposedly carry legal firearms. Their panties would certainly be in a wad if this had been “white patriots”.
I am not meaning to put too simplistic a spin on it but slavery is a profound way of limiting the choices a human being has. The ingrained legacy of slavery in America, still to this day, severely limits the number of choices needed for a quality and fulfilling life for many African Americans. Everyone should have the option of too many choices.