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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Challenging Thought Experiment...bear with me, while I struggle through this...

Some minorities have the luxury of being able to commiserate publicly, while any attempt to unify by my ilk is met with raised eyebrows, news media coverage we never asked for and all the condemnation you might expect from a lynch mob or a firing squad.

Some minorities are met with bleeding hearts and open arms.

Some minorities write poetry, and are encouraged to find their voices, raise their spirits, and heaven forbid anyone threaten their freedom of speech.

But there are some thoughts you are not even allowed to whisper, except in vetted company.  Some jokes will even cost you your job.  Some ideas are so taboo you will be publicly vilified, mentally crucified, humiliated online, paraded and sullied and impossible to hire.

So there is deep-rooted anger, envy, rage, sadness, isolation for some minorities that cannot be assuaged or addressed or comforted...or even publicly allied...until recently...and even now it is unsafe to hold certain opinions or say certain things...

But now we have a very large, very public shield to hide behind.  And some of the members of this shield say and think things that are worse than what I think or say.  I can feel superior, since I would never mock a disabled person, while feeling a stealthy relief, and a quiet gathering hope that there are many more of us than I ever hoped or dreamed.  I see more than 60 million people voted with me, and I will never know if any of them agree with my specific brand of thoughts, or the taboo things our family taught me to keep away from "mixed" company.  (Pun intended.)

I can pretend in public, because the closet I am in protects me in such important ways, and the necessity of my closet has been bitterly woven in with our beliefs to fortify our anger and our hatred of whichever "others" have the public privilege, and government programs, and protections.

This secret can and must stay secret, unless we have established safety.  There are signals and code words, secret handshakes or phrases.  We are united online in new ways you cannot imagine, and now we have been validated.

We cannot seek refuge, so screw immigrants and refugees.  We cannot gather together in public, in protest, even peacefully, without being labeled a hate crime.  So we find each other, and we let off steam through private e-mails, private messages, secret groups, in person get-togethers.  We see hypocrisy all around us, and we are the unsung, unprotected, most misunderstood minority.

[I weep, because a part of me instantly celebrated when the West Virginian, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, and the Mayor, Beverly Whaling, both wound up losing their jobs or resigning after a tasteless racist joke exchange on Facebook.  In the aftermath, I tumbled through a series of mental gymnastics.  Ms Taylor and Ms Whaling were absolutely out of line, and now I begin my horrific gymnastics.  How would I feel if I had to resign after making a horrible joke about DT?  Did the punishment match the crime?  What sort of limitations are there on freedom of speech?  I disagree with their joke and banter, and I have every right to voice my concerns...but don't they also have the right to make their opinions known?  It is illegal to shout "Fire" in a crowded movie theater if there is not a fire, because it presents a public safety hazard, and would diminish the effectiveness of such an alarm in case of actual emergencies.  That is pretty straightforward.  I don't think anyone is protesting the limitations on freedom of speech in that case.  But if we want to rise above the times of internment camps, and McCarthy-ism, how can we create a safe space for the people to express themselves without fear of losing their jobs?  I want to make it Crystal Clear that I am not advocating for racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, or anti-LGBTQ, or any other hateful speech.  This thought experiment is my attempt to imagine what it might feel like to hold certain beliefs - maybe because of a religious belief for example, and be blocked from safely saying those beliefs publicly.  I am still processing these thoughts and finding it very challenging.  There seems to be a swath of undefined territory between the "Fire" in a theater version of speech restriction, and the freedom we take for granted.  In that gray territory are statements that are considered politically incorrect, outright lies, and opinions that are highly charged.  I know people that are adamantly pro-choice, and people that are adamantly pro-life, and they can have a passionate debate, discussion, or choose to avoid the topic...but there is no shame in expressing either opinion.  One of the things that has happened during this opening of the floodgates is that it has come to light that there have been quite a few people who feel their opinion is unsafe to express, and this suppression has broken wide open, for better or for worse, and now we have to face it, learn from it, evolve.  (Best case scenario.)  I have learned more in the last 2 and a half weeks about pockets of privilege than I ever realized and it has been eye-opening, but this one...the one that I am trying to find empathy for above...has been the most challenging one to even consider.  Maybe it's because I am Jewish, and I find it extremely difficult to imagine anyone associated with neo-nazi/white nationalism as a fellow brother or sister in pain, hiding in plain sight, spending the last 60 years huddling in secret.  I do not want to call for empathy.  But my soul requires I consider it, because we must stop calling to squash entire races of "others" based on religion or skin color or sexual orientation or anything else.  And calling for Unity means considering this minority too...as painful as it might be.]




2 comments:

  1. I think context is significant. What you joke about among your friends and people who know you is different than having those jokes spilled out in public among a mass who doesn't know you and can only judge based on those words.
    As a Jew, I have been the recipient of and deliverer of what can be taken as anti-semitic jokes and comments - but that would be out of context.
    Questioning if a physically disabled person can perform a job that requires physical action is one thing. Making a blanket statement about the negative worth of disabled people (or Jews, or African Americans, or Mexicans, or...) is something else entirely.
    I think a lot of what feeds it is lack of education, and the fact that it really is easy (and kind of satisfying) to blame someone else for ones problems.

    At least, that's my response to the thought experiment. good luck coming up with your own answer to what is a very hard question.

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    1. I have to agree that context is important, which is part of why learning the two ladies had resigned or lost their jobs somehow got under my skin and propelled me toward some form of empathy...the punishment did not seem to fit the crime. Was the joke in poor taste? Absolutely. Outrageous. Ugly. Racist. I cringed. And then I thought what if someone...else...were in the White House...and the majority became outraged and forced John Oliver or Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee to quit? What if I could not safely make a tasteless joke about our First Lady?

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