Departures, Cont.



V. Fin

I think I've given all I should about Europe for now. Maybe not. I'm not sure. You can read each of the entries hereherehere and here. I'm not so much out of thoughts, as I want to hold some of this (Hi Corby) for later. I haven't said much about the Swiss portion of my trip and I think there might be some juice there.

A few final notes:

1.) I want to thank Judah Grunstein, a true gentleman who helped me see a lot of Paris that I would have missed. I also want to thank Jeffrey Burr, who came out and met me in le Jardin du Luxembourg when I was feeling really lonely.

2.) I want to thank everyone who came in and commented on this journey. I learned almost as much from you guys as I did from the trip. I also want to thank you for enduring what is effectively a rough draft of personal history, with all the flaws, hiccups, mistakes, and lack of reflection inherent to such a thing.

3.) All during this trip I've been reading Antony Beevor's tremendous history of World War II, The Second World War. A few weeks ago I noted that white racism is not particularly original in its scope, lethality, nor its cruelty. Nothing shows this off like World War II, where terrorism was just what states do. People were killed by the thousands seemingly for sport. There was a portion of the rape of Nanking (it's called the rape of Nanking, son) where the Japanese generals decided to practice their swordsmanship. To do so they lined up a group of Chinese senior officers and make them kneel. They then beheaded them one by one.

The point here is not that white racism isn't a big deal. On the contrary, it is a big deal, because it belongs to us. You don't get to ignore your high blood pressure because your neighbor has lung cancer. And it may be true that slaughtering a city is more carnage than slaughtering a village, but if you are a survivor of that village it is an Apocalypse all the same. Moreover, white racism's power is not limited to America even if the pain of racism feels different in Paris than it does in New York. It also feels different in Atlanta.

3A.) Here is something else--there are other ways of looking at the world besides "Is mine bigger than yours?" Among them, noting that there is nothing intractable, incurable or petrifying about racism. White racism is a particular problem of power. The world is filled with other such problems, the effects of which have been all around me during the past week.

3AI.) I leave confirmed in the belief that if you are reading a history of feminism in America to see if white women or black men have had it harder, you have already failed on several important levels. One of our failings on the left is our tendency to default to the most base usage of categories, assume that they are always the best way to see an individual, and then make broad assumptions of power. "I don't know anything about this because I'm white" is neither endearing nor self-deprecating. It's a cop-out. ("I don't know anything about this because I haven't researched/experienced/read/thought much about it," is not.)

3AII.) I leave confirmed in the advice of my friend Jelani Cobb--whenever someone, noting a pathology, begins a sentence with "Black people are the only people who..." they are in trouble.

4.) I bought a nice pair of expensive headphones for this trip. I have not used them since I got off the plane. Very odd.

5.) It was a brazil nut that clipped me. I feel like 50--they should have bodied me when they had the chance.