These past two weeks I have been posting on reconciliation and greed. As I re-read them, I am struck by several editorial items, but mainly these:
* My writing style gets too close to sermonizing at times.
* There are several points where I cannot find myself in what I have written.
* I am grasping for something, but don’t seem to be reaching it with my words.
* Finding a way to make sense of my own ambivalence without simultaneously putting me squarely in the middle of the picture gets too contrived; a first person narrative might have been better than a third person (or even impersonal) approach.
* There seems to be something missing, some primer that should be named before I explore topics that are tough for me.
* Reconciliation and greed are connected to my encore, but I do not explain how — perhaps I am unsure of how.
For the past twenty years I have been a student of public health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identified people. By the sheer force of my interest and the chance of my birth in this period of time, I have also become a leader in my city and state on this issue. In general, I enjoy a degree of respect for what I have learned and what I share. However, I still regularly hear the condescension that suggests I don’t know health care, health systems, public health, LGBT theory or research, non-profits, or funding. If there is a gay version of mansplaining, I hear it regularly.
Perhaps, also by the chance of my birth in this part of the country, I am sort of an invisible force on the national scene. When I think about the impact of regionalism in the US, I am reminded of Kimberly Wilson who died nearly 30 years ago. Ms. Wilson was an NPR commentator who lived with her husband in Missoula, Montana. She had intellectual gifts and down-to-earth insights that made the commonplace seem grand. Her listeners were all shown that kindness and charm do not cloak ignorance, but rather an intelligence that needs no hype. I think of her surprisingly often and could swear I last heard her only a couple of years ago. Like Ms. Wilson, I regularly pronounce my bon mots, hearing them later around the city or on a national stage, but rarely hearing their source credited. This is oversight is not about me — I am clear on that. But the competitive nature and greed of US society sets up invisibility for most leaders in the central two-thirds of the nation.
Greed and competition also support the use of race as a pretext for invisibility or vilification of leaders who are part of the global majority, whether they live in the US or not.
I am alternately tickled and annoyed by the imports we get in Wisconsin each year from Boston, Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. They tell us “it gets better” when there is no evidence that it does. They share weak national data that is comprised of sets of convenience samples or impossibly small sample sizes when we have many more robust local data sets. They offer us cooperative agreements when in fact they are not listening, so cooperation is minimal at best.
Managing my responses to this invisibility as a gay, Midwest, public health leader possibly contributes to my sermonizing tone in my writing about reconciliation and greed. I wonder if the tone is the squeal that comes when the pent up air in a balloon is slowly released through a compressed space. I have so much to think about, so much to say, and the release feels hard and limited and overdue.
I recall learning geometry in high school and advanced statistics in the university. I learned the requisite material, but I also learned something about how I learn as well. When I close in on something new, some area of greater understanding, I feel desparately detached and stupid. I question my ability and the instruction I have received. Then, after what seems like hours of excrutiating anquish, understanding comes like a burst. And I get it.
So now, as I cast about in the realm of community, I am finding issues like reconciliation and greed to be important considerations. I am unsure about how they fit, but I am fairly certain that they do fit. I am uneasy and question my ability to learn. But, for me, this may just be the darkness before the light.