Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz wrote: “There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all.” (Junot is Dominican American)
Permit me to state the obvious. If I can’t see a bit of myself reflected in you then you are the other and you are potentially the monster to be feared. How can I tell you are not one of my monsters? What is it I can say that lets you know you are included? What Diaz is addressing is a symptom at a macro level of making whole groups of people invisible. It made me examine my small world on social media.
As a white middle-aged male (60 is the new 50, right?) I see a lot of my own reflection in the social media I choose, which is Facebook. I like to think it is a good mix of conservative and liberal friends and family of different ages that has a larger number of folks on the left. However my bubble is really pretty small. 6 African American FB friends out of 269 people – really – that many? There two who are Muslim and several who are Jewish.
There are some from both sides of the political spectrum who are town criers of indignation about the latest headline who also intermix their posts with touching testimonials about their daughter’s wedding, a cute baby picture, or even just a story about a good day fishing. Most of them just want to share and be noticed, that’s why I send out a lot of jokes and cartoons.
When the town criers of indignation make me cringe I am glad I have the time to reflect a bit. I try to be careful not to take the bait. Many times I have deleted my hasty, back at ya’, posts, when I ask myself, “Do I really want these words to live forever on the internet?” Most of the time I stay silent. I don’t want to make these friends into monsters and I don’t want to be theirs by shouting past each other. For my part I have to recognize the other exists and let them know they are not invisible so the shouting can begin to calm down. The hard conversations are going have to be done in person.
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