I had thought that I might be heading to a place of sadness. I read Nikky Finney's excellent response to Daniel Handler's racist joke at the National Book Awards. She wrote to the National Book Foundation suggesting that they apologize too; they declined. She concludes her piece: "Even if our mouth was not the mouth that said it—we still must have and find the courage to speak out against such moments as these, lest all our windows be broken, lest all our great literary celebrations be reduced to a watermelon patch."
I felt that leaden sorrow--but then I ran across this story of how Handler is making atonement: he's making a $10,000 donation to We Need Diverse Books--and for 24 hours, he matched donations. Now that's a classy way of apologizing.
Sure, it would be nice to live in a world where apologies for these kinds of comments aren't necessary because everyone is enlightened and thinks before they speak. But we don't live in that world yet.
In her speech at the National Book Awards, Ursula K. Le Guin reminds us of why art is important and how artists will be necessary: "I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."
She reminds us that the reality we have now may not be the reality that we always have: "The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words."
What a wonderful reminder of why we need to do what we do as writers and artists!
And because this is my theology blog, I'd also add that spiritual people have that same sort of power. The world relies on spiritual people to call us all to be our better selves.
And sure, spiritual people can fail at that, as can institutions--and sometimes fairly spectacularly. I like the example of Daniel Handler, which serves as a great reminder of how even spectacular failure can be redeemed.
feeling the feelings…
4 months ago