Thank God for Roseanne Barr. I mean, look what the woman started!
Our meditation group held a council on race last night. This morning I walked with one of them and all we could talk about was race. Or things associated with race: not just the institutionalized racism of this country, not just the localized segregation occurring right here in our corner of progressive New England, but the fears, reprimands, warnings and stiff-lipped smiles that have been there all our lives around the issue of race.
Such a difficult conversation to have, and lucky us that we have Roseanne Barr to nudge—no, push and jab us, kicking and screaming, into that circle to reveal what we’ve lived with all our lives, or scratch and scrounge clumsily into deep, stinky recesses of memory and consciousness and bring up into the light everything we’ve been shown and taught from earliest childhood.
I will admit that yesterday I felt positively gleeful that Roseanne lost her show, her agents, and maybe another shot at the big time. Sure I felt bad for those who may have lost their jobs on the show, but my glee at life finally teaching someonne a lesson overrode everything. My Buddhist Precepts self wagged a spiritual finger at me, but for a while there I couldn’t care less. It’s time people like her learn their lesson, I replied. ENOUGH’S ENOUGH!
But, as Philip Roth wrote, we always get people wrong. This morning Roseanne talked about her “Ambien tweeting.” I tried to imagine it. There she is at 2 in the morning, unable to sleep, mind full of voices, and out they come in that racist, raging tweet, the one with all caps or big exclamation marks.
I thought of myself. I don’t take Ambien or other sleep medication, but I do know what it is to lie awake at 2 am hearing one voice after another, loud, menacing, paranoid, crazy-making. I am very familiar with the dramas that unfold in those nutty early hours. Not voices aimed at Valerie Jarrett, rarely even aimed at Donald Trump. Targets are much closer to home: family and friends past and present, myself.
A possible difference here is that I know when I’m crazy. I hear the voices, watch the drama, and know that sanity does not lie in that direction. So while I regret that I am losing sleep, I am grateful that this drama plays itself out in the dark of night, alone, and not as a raving lunatic harming people in the day.
We need lots of systemic change; we need to change social and economic structures unique to this country. But the most basic structure I would like to change is that of my own brain, the one repelled by and afraid of anyone who looks, sounds, and acts different from me. The one hearing the old voices echoing across millions of years of human evolution (If it’s not your family, your clan, your tribe, your religion, never trust him! They want what you fought so hard for, the house, the food, the money under the mattress, and they’ll take it all away and leave you with nothing, defenseless, unable to survive!)
America has its own very special brand of racism, but our brain works at a far more basic level than that, honed by millions of years of bitter evolution. Threats to my basic survival have not been there for a long time, but the old patterns remain.
Don’t tweet at 2 am.