Thursday, April 10, 2008

She Speaks

I have the exciting opportunity to offer Gridbook's first guest blogging: a response to the blog by my brilliant and insightful wife...

I yelled at my husband today... because I am a Fortson (and of course a sinner too). It is a generational feature of the Fortsons to become loud as they become increasingly passionate about finding the truth. My grandfather died of high blood pressure. My aunt died of an aneurysm. Of course, I do not know how I will die but it may well be caused by some inner pressure that has just exceeded its maximum. They both raised their voices in direct proportion to their passion. For my grandfather, the issues were spiritual. He would pace the floor with his Bible, becoming more agitated and adamant as he made his point about predestination. My aunt championed social justice. She became incensed over racial inequalities and would work herself into a foul mood over topics of poverty and injustice.

I don't know if my causes are quite as defined. Sometimes I just yell... because of everything I haven't figured out yet; because I haven't yet found a satisfactory social or spiritual hook to hang my hat on, a battle ground to fight my life's fight and defend to the death. I haven't found that thing for which I'm willing to sacrifice my blood pressure and the health of my arteries. But I am a Fortson and I will pace and fuss and yell (mostly in the privacy of my home) until I find it.

In the meantime, my husband blogs. He constantly puts out his thoughts, emotions, and ideas for all to see. And I disagree with most of them. Is that any wonder when the first conversation we ever had was him discussing how he could sympathize with (but not justify) supporters of the KKK? Would you be shocked to know that the first time I visited him at his home, I discovered that he proudly flew the Confederate flag? (These are not things I rushed home to tell my parents.) Yet I married him with love and pride and would do it a thousand times again.

However, I must now speak because my picture appears on his blog, next to his writings. My name is mentioned in his thoughts. My son is discussed in these entries. And I do not endorse all of his views. He will always vote pro-life. I will not. He is unflinchingly against wealth, the upper-class and accumulating materialistic things. I love a cushy lifestyle. He loves to advertise his views by covering his car in bumper stickers. I prefer for my views to remain private unless it is absolutely essential that they be revealed. I could go on about our differences. They are as opposite as black and white. Yet just as our son will reflect our unity, somewhere in our diversity we agree.

I most wanted to say to you, his readers, that he is married to a woman who does not think like he does, respond the way he does, or arrive at the same conclusions that he does. Although I am passionate, I am not public. I do not wish to publish my thoughts or opinions, mainly because they are constantly evolving, deepening, widening, wisening. What I think today may be developed into an entirely new thought after I experience tomorrow.

So while I thought it was “time to speak,” what I want to say is still being formed and developed and perfected. And someday soon, I may be able to say in exactly the way I want why the gridbook does not reflect who I am.

I am the great granddaughter of slaves married to the great grandson of slave owners—I am a black woman. I will soon give birth to a son who even more than me will have to create his identity everyday—I am a mother. I am married to a man who is the antithesis of my views and approaches to life—I am a wife. I am the daughter of a full-time homemaker—I am creating a career. I am a believer in Jesus Christ although I am often ashamed of His followers—I am a Christian. I am both proud and disappointed in my country, its leaders, citizens and policies—I am an American. I believe that everyone should have a choice when it comes to their bodies and their lives—I am pro-life. I am not easily defined. The boundaries around my thoughts and beliefs are constantly shifting; widening, deepening, excluding—I am complicated.

I kept my middle and maiden name when married, adding "Davis" to who I already was because none of me was lost at my marriage to Jonathan Davis. I only grew. I added on. I expanded.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Missing Y2K

I first heard about the Y2K Bug and survivalism about 10 years ago. According to the theory a programing glitch would cause all computers to fail on the first day of the new millennium. Since computers ran everything some speculated that this could lead to a catastrophic collapse of all technology, economy, government creating a new dark age in which modern people would be helpless without the services and structures that had sustained their lives. Many people I knew were preparing for the worst, stockpiling food, weapons, and supplies, making pacts to care for each other when safety suddenly became tenuous. I must admit on New Years Day 2000 I had a slight sense of disappointment. Nothing happened—the modern world had survived unscathed.

Perhaps the wildness and romanticism of being a 23 year-old made the collapse of everything seem more exciting than dreadful, but I don't think I was alone in being hopeful about the “end of the world as we know it.” While fear may have played a role, the overwhelming feeling I recall in people's voices when they spoke of the coming disaster was ecstatic anticipation. People were eager for the power grid to go down never to come on again.

I have recently become aware that expectations of modern society disintegrating are still alive and well. The newer theories for the coming collapse are more diverse (economic depression, oil running out, terrorist attack, global warming, bird flu, etc) but the final prediction is the same: The system becomes too unstable to continue. The store shelves and gas tanks go empty. The lights go out. The government stops working. Suddenly the world we knew is gone and won't be coming back. People are fascinated with the idea. There are hundreds of websites with information and debates on how to prepare for this. Hollywood has become caught up in survivalism in films such as “28 Days Later” and “I Am Legend

After seeing Y2K and 9/11 do little to disrupt the modern world, I am much more skeptical about the contention that our system is a house of cards awaiting the slightest tremor to send it to pieces. The secret wish that it would all fall apart, however, is not as easily banished from my mind. Is this just the destructive impulse to tear apart the world we inherited? It seems to me that this is essentially a hopeful rather than violent phenomenon. Survivalists don't want the world to end, they look forward to a new beginning.

Why would so many in the world's freest and richest nation eagerly dream of destitution and danger? It must be a symptom of fatal flaws in our culture when many of our strongest impulses and deepest hopes are for the implosion society. Has our culture been swept up in the current of building wealth and feeding appetites that it lost track of deeper but more subtle human needs? Has the technology that made everyone's lives easier ended up making us feel more isolated? Has the mass society of cars, computers, and cities distracted us from our sustaining relationships with each other, the earth, and God? Or perhaps the human mind is always that of hunter-gather which expects to find itself barely scraping out a living and living in a tiny tribe, and the world of modernity is just too much for it to bear—a dream from which we keep expecting to wake up?

In the end, I don't think that the doomsday predictions of the survivalists are very likely. For better or worse the modern system is stronger than it appears. I also don't believe that my romanticized expectations of living after a crash would be liberating like it was in my imagination. We may be stuck with the modern world, but we should examine it more critically. If the modern world isn't remedied to accommodate our ancient needs it may end up ruining us yet.