noun - opin·ion | \ ə-ˈpin-yən \
1a: a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter
2a: belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge
b: a generally held view
3a: a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert
b: the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based
While walking today, I noticed the rocky tenor of a skateboard approaching and watched as these four wheels and a human floated by me - smile beaming, brows squinted in caution above scanning eyes, they were presumably looking for cars and pedestrians. I thought, "Good for them! Nice sunny day. That's some responsible driving…if I can call it that!"
Then suddenly, loudly, with a sort of bitter-toned abandon afforded this sex, age, and race I see a confident, young, white man exclaim from the front stoop on my left, "He's an idiot!" My nervous system lit, I met his gaze and returned his heat…"He's a commuter!"
And just like that, I was reflexively reminded of the human propensity to assess, judge, and codify our brethren with the full voracity of an opinion.
Although spoken as such, opinions are more perspective than Truth. Opinions are perspectives influenced and informed by experiences. My heart fell as I continued walking under the sun, leaving behind that label…”Commuter.” I found space for the experiences that have shaped me beyond simply labeling someone, but this is thanks to access to resources like education, and access to people who have been willing to challenge me in times of confusion and conflict (and my own stubbornness), who showed me how to grow beyond my limited views or impulsivity. That’s all privilege.
I shook my limbs and breathed until my nervous system soothed. I imagined the trauma and privilege in my bones - it’s looked liked silence, racial innocence, bolting from the dinner table when I didn’t know how to say what needed saying. It’s looked like freezing at times in the face of hearing righteous indignation and vitriolic opinions couched in the form “justice” and “good, God-fearing folk” who loved me, supported me, and kissed me goodnight and who preached homophobic slurs Sunday morning.
I remembered how that silence has sat at the back of my throat - a burning, a tightening, a wrenching of the larynx and esophagus, a melting of the gut and a loss of sensation in my fingertips.
White Freeze - it’s the swoosh of dissociation past the eardrums into the soul. Being in the body of a child while my grandfather, towering over me, rained down misogyny on me from our family’s generational belly of hate as I stood memorizing the stillness beneath my skin. Rigid. Brittle. Nerves and tissue and muscles memorizing fragility.
I think about what it takes to stand up…to speak up…to listen. Most of all to listen.
I think about how much listening is needed and when listening is a privilege that should no longer be afforded to those whose words are a plague to the heart, the soul, the body, the mind.
I think about how or when walking away, removing myself as an audience member, is needed most. I think about how or when or what makes one's presence a privilege, a right of passage, a free pass, a stand off, a balm, an honor, a death sentence, a resource…but never are we ever objects. Never are we, our sisters, brothers, loves, dear ones and beloveds ever…never are we ever objects to be labeled. Labeling means I am a commodity. Labeling means I am not a complex, living, breathing being. Labeling means I boxed, shippable, purchasable, objectifiable. Labeling means you have some sway over my worth, my value, my identity. Labeling scares me. Speaking to what I am a part of…speaking to how I show up…speaking to what makes me tick, sway, swoon is something different. And I think about the liberation I felt when I began to proudly wear the word Queer with my fellow Queer family. How freeing. How strong. How true. Labeling is a tender, careful business.
So I sit with a reflection:
So what is the business I’m in with my words? What are they doing? What function do they serve?
How can my words be a medicine?
How can I speak a perspective in place of an opinion? How can I speak an opinion in a medicine way?
What is needed in order for me see more clearly the complex context in which I stand? The complex context in which you stand?
So I come with a blessing:
May I navigate the “C”’s well. May my thoughts and words be a prayer of curiosity, of critical thinking, in place of the condemnation, codification, and criticism.