Today, I celebrated something. With other people. Blueberries, strawberries, and stale pizzas laid across red tablecloths in an English park with some white guys from my predominately white school throwing white frisbees to each other. I switched between sitting and eating and standing, running, and catching a frisbee to try and justify the first time I’ve eaten excessively this whole trip (good ol’ American obesity). The others sat talking and eating peacefully as other, drunker people across the park from the same country shot fireworks in the grey afternoon. Both groups in the park called Jesus Green (not kidding) celebrated the same day in different ways because…well, ‘Merica. But, what is America? What is a country? What is a group of people, and why do humans always insist on grouping things? Why is grouping and categorizing so natural to us?
I’ve been wanting to write about this for awhile, as the idea has been simmering ever since I had to walk around on the playground at the new elementary school searching for the only two people who talked to me, to rush to the mysteriously sticky middle school lunch table lest I have to find a seat away from the only people I remotely knew, to stand back up after the junior starting linemen who named me “Bitchtits” lowered his shoulder and hit me as I was running to a drill with no coaches watching or caring. Why and how do we group off and separate as people like we often and unconsciously do? What it does it take to be “in” a group?
These questions can be best seen on today, the celebration of the beginnings of a nation. An imperfect nation but all nations and almost (if not) all things concerning people are imperfect. A nation where I am free to do what I reasonably wish for the most part in safety and satisfaction, due to the noble sacrifices of men and women trained to kill overseas and some ill used back home, the revolutionary and ancient ideas of men who owned, sold, and compiled in oppressing people in a free state, and the backs of black slaves who have undergone injustices and persecutions that have rarely been rivaled. I never noticed that only white people celebrate the Fourth of July seriously, if you can celebrate it seriously. I celebrated by eating and making jokes with pictures on Facebook. On this day, a day of commemorating an unequal, hypocritical, deferred, yet redeemable declaration of freedom and equality for only a few white men who owned land.
The things that separate us into groups are experiences that we share. By race, it’s the experiences of oppression and a pain that will not be recognized but hidden in ignorance in a vast broken machine. By gender, it’s the power and monetary disparity in a difference of genitals and understanding of performance and social construction. By geography, it’s people who removed themselves freely and wanted to be in two places at one: in the difficult frontier, stealing and making a New world from the Natives and the land, and in Britain, making decisions on taxes and policies in which they did not have proper representation. By schools, by churches born into, by family, by class, by place of birth, by artists’ club, by sexuality, by justice, by love, by sin, by history, by addiction, by so many different experiences and gaps of understanding, finding the place where others see and feel and look similar to how you do. Where people recognize how you organize all these senses, events, misfortunes, and triumphs that make up the amalgamation of life.
Now, we live in a world that is unchangeably sending groups and their experiences crashing into each other with our streams of knowledge gradually becoming pooled together to branch off again. Beneath the old English building I reside in temporarily, Latin American, Italian, Japanese, and Thai restaurants, run by nationalities not from those places, to sell food different from the food in those lands with serious borders, imagined on a colored map by powerful people and wars. We’re now more aware of our links as humans on the same planet but also of our differences from our different experiences as the same species on different parts of the same planet. It gets very confusing. I wish there were some way to come together as individuals, bonded by common ideals of love, truth, and good. Like at a concert. Yet, we all have different musical tastes, views, and experiences of everything. Sometimes, people want things that are incompatible with what someone else wants. Cue, fighting, murder, and genocide. I don’t mean to be joking of that, but taking in all the pain of the past week (let alone the year) without humor can be tiring and even more deadening to my soul in a world where I can feel numb at the buzz of my phone of 100 people dying in explosions in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, and butcherings in Istanbul and Dhaka. Even in our groups, each member experiences difference in detail and scale of impact of an event. We all hurt and rejoice slightly somewhat uniquely.
I wish I could say we could all fit into one human group under a Divine being in a speck of mostly water in a big wide Space. And we do, I think, outside of our subgroups. But it’s a messy group. And it seems to be shrinking along with the world.
I hope we can all play nice and
love. Really love.