Another political blogger is thinking of quitting, not from disinterest so much as from continual abuse. If sie needs to go, sie needs to go. Sie is precious and important and should preserve hirself and hir happiness, particularly since sie has given so much. But I want to say to hir and everyone else:
Anger is valuable. Anger is incredibly, immeasurably valuable. Anger is incandescent. It’s consuming. Most of us feel the flame and gutter. Burning makes us uncomfortable. We avoid conflict. We go out. We find ways to soothe ourselves in comfort. We ignore injustice. We see the face of oppression, and we look away instead of igniting. We lack strength.
Those of you who burn and burn — you are a light for us.
Your blaze is not an obligation. Your blaze is a gift — a gift you’ve given us. It’s a gift you will always have given us, even if you only burned bright for a moment.
I cannot count the times when I say, “Not now,” when I say, “I don’t care,” when I silence the information that will disturb me. When I am so disturbed that I am growling with frustration, so often I lack the courage of confrontation. Another time, another hour, never at all. That person can hurt me — he holds power over my career — I have reason to be silent, and so I am. I can only begin to attack orthagonally, through the guise of fiction or poetry, when there is enough ambiguity between me and my interlocutor that we need not look each other in the eye, our conversation sliding into whispers and indirections.
No one has an obligation to burn, and certainly no one should burn hirself up for anyone else. All I am saying is I know my weakness, and I see your strengths — not just sie who I am addressing, but hir and hir and hir, scattered like stars across the blogosphere, across the streets, in groups of activists, sitting in the bar while refusing to be silent while that man calls that woman “cunt,” laboring in law offices to defend the homeless, in medical waiting rooms to dispense free innoculations, on phones to counsel rape victims, waiting by a fighting couple to be sure the shouts won’t become blows, helping the Mexican family across the street to clean up the rubble of a racist attack, marching for Jena, declaiming the white woman who wouldn’t hire you, declaiming the teacher who told you should shut your mouth because black girls are too stupid to stay loud, raising children who know the word heteronormativity, hanging a picture of her wife or his husband on hir office wall, transitioning despite angry fathers, helping friends through transition, shouting no and no at each oppressor who attacks one’s own weakest spot, opening themselves and caring and burning — and I thank you for those gifts.
Burning comes at a cost. We who fail to burn as brightly know that. We know that we do not pay the price you do. We honor you and thank you, but you owe us nothing. What you’ve given is beautiful.
You should never feel guilty. You should never feel ashamed.