“Assholes! Don’t be assholes to each other, okay!? It’s pretty simple!”
[Originally published on MySpace, March 8, 2010. The organization of this blog is a tad awkward, but it’ll do. Comments are reconstructed below.]
Being something of a social activist and just generally a friendly, curious person, I belong to a number of different organizations within my community. Last night I attended a general meeting for one of them. During this meeting, one of the organization’s leaders stood up in front of the entire group and declared that he couldn’t stand ugly women, i.e., a woman who had “caught on fire,” which fire (and of course the woman herself) was subsequently put out by being “beaten with an ugly stick.”
I am of course aware that this individual is talking about women like me. Folks used to call me “bull dog” in high school. Pretty neat, huh? Suffice to say that this is a long standing cross I’ve been required to bear.
A cross, I say. The saying comes from a story about a man who was required to carry the implement of his own destruction on his back to the place where his destruction was finally ritually enacted. He didn’t become a hero in the eyes of anyone else until long after his grisly death, and even so, just about everything he purportedly stood for was subsequently twisted throughout ensuing history as justification for some of the most heinous enactments of cruelty and power-grabbing ever visited on humankind by humankind. I don’t have any trouble imagining what he might say now, given the opportunity.
“Fuck no, that’s not what I wanted, never mind did I plan it that way! The only reason I cooperated at all was because I couldn’t give up the hope that somehow, at the last minute, I would be rescued! I was foully murdered on a cross because I was willing to carry that cross. Had I refused, I’d have been foully murdered where I stood. Death later is always preferable to death now, know what I’m saying? Say what you like about the after-life; while you’re still here and alive, life is pretty damned precious, right down to the last second. It’s up to all the rest of YOU to give my death meaning. I can’t do it for you; I’m dead. All my choices are made, and I’ve given you all the chances I can. It is now only through your own choices that you can find new chances. I can recommend that you try to learn from what happened to me.”
For example, having had this challenge to LEARN thrown like a gauntlet at my feet, I now ask the question, what the fuck are we all doing placing crosses on each other’s backs?! Who the hell do we think we are, demanding that people carry our own fears and prejudices inside their souls? For the sake of WHAT, I ask you? I have the suspicion that the man carrying the cross might point out that it wasn’t his grisly death that mattered; what mattered was the circumstances which created its possibility, the concatenation of choices that led to the horrific conclusion it did. His death wasn’t the point. The point was that it is possible for a community, an entire nation, to be so wrong in its precepts, stereotypes, and norms, that ritualized murder is conceivable, acceptable, and doable. The man’s death was an illustration of just how bad things can get if you don’t pay attention to what you’re thinking; if you don’t accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices you make and the thoughts you think, not just for yourself, but for your entire community.
This death on a cross was one of humanity’s most shameful contributions to history, representing a complete failure on the part of all participants as individuals and as community members to act in accordance to God’s will, which will has more to do with, “Assholes! Don’t be assholes to each other, okay!? It’s pretty simple!” than it does with the more generally accepted “Okay, you killed my kid. That’s alright, I forgive you. Carry on.”
God does forgive, I’m sure. But I think that’s in part because doing so doesn’t save us from suffering the consequences of the choices we make. Instead, doing so helps us survive that suffering. We still need to try not to make those mistakes as best we can. The alternative, as graphically demonstrated by the death of one Man among many who’ve died in a myriad of ways for the same damned reasons, is pretty grim, folks.
So, what is it like, bearing an ugly cross on my back? I spend a lot of my time struggling with a contradiction between how I feel and what I want, and whether, based on my happenstance physical appearance, I deserve to have those feelings and whether I have the right to pursue those wants. Being ugly places me outside the borders of acceptable mainstream convention for a number of human activities that are otherwise indiscriminately bestowed upon us all, such that I must somehow become a thief and steal them, or a beggar to beseech them of the more kindly disposed, or a traitor to myself and my own kind when I “lower” my “standards” to allow other ugly people to be acceptable to me based on the idea that somehow ugly people can ignore this flaw if they stick to their own kind, despite the fact that the reason they’re sticking to each other is ‘cause they’re ugly, or I can become a clown and let it all hang out, becoming a laughing stock. Or, I can opt out of the whole mess and live in sterile isolation from those same human activities.
Do you see any wins in there anywhere? Because I don’t.
Shame. On all of us.
What is the nature of physical attraction and attractiveness? Is it written in stone? Anyone who comes up to me and starts talking about evolution and mating practices had better be prepared to explain how having long hairless skinny bodies with perfect skin and symmetrical features contributes substantively to the survival of the human species, and then they need to explain the existence, both past and present, of a much larger number of individuals who do NOT fit the criteria just mentioned above. In the meantime, I will consider such an argument—that a narrowly defined esthetic regarding what constitutes an acceptable range of physical beauty is natural and necessary to our survival—to be a cop-out, an abdication of the responsibility to openly and honestly consider the whole diversity of humanity and its potential in all its manifestations, realms and endeavors.
IF there is any merit to the idea that physical attraction and attractiveness is hard-wired into our psyches, I would hazard a guess that it is on a very, very low level—one that does NOT obviate the validity of the existence of a wide ranging diversity of individual appearances. We’re all inclined, for instance, at the onset of puberty, to have sex. These days it’s called “the sex drive.” Beyond that, I believe the rest is subject to social construction and interpretation, which is mutable. That means we have a choice.
So now I ask you: do you want to live in a society which defines a wide range of naturally occurring physical characteristics as flaws and which then burdens—oppresses—practically its entire population with an onus of responsibility for these same flaws, despite the fact that said population has absolutely no control over these characteristics?
Do you want to live in a society which oppresses its population at all?
By way of hope and comfort, here’s a quote from another leader of another organization I belong to regarding the same subject: “…I can very honestly say that I am utterly aware yet detraction-oblivious to people’s physical appearance…I find a beauty in all who deign to expose it.”
Again, I ask, whose organization would you rather belong to?
Think responsibly. Act accordingly.
11:48 AM 14 Comments 4 Kudos