We Gotta Slay Our Monsters Even When We Love Them
It’s always disturbing to realize, yet again, that you’ve been conditioned to like monsters.
The first time I realized that this year was when I saw Proud Mary. I struggled with my feelings for Danny Glover’s character, Benny, a man who was abusive, manipulative, murderous, and a father figure for Mary. I watched that movie and struggled with the affection I felt for a complete bastard. It hurt me when he died.
The second instance this year was when watching Black Panther. Not only did I empathize with Killmonger, but his monster spoke directly to my monster. He was smart, vicious, murderous, ambitious, capable, and terrible. I mourned when he died.
The third instance was after watching Infinity War, when I found myself enamored with Thanos. That was when I finally had to have a heart to heart with myself and admit that I enjoy monsters. And I am 100% sure that it is a direct result of the imperialist propaganda that constantly reminds and reinforces the humanity of individuals who have zero regard for the humanity of anyone else. I am 100% sure it is because as a culture, we choose to reward the “accomplishments” of white people more than the humanity of the people they willfully and egregiously destroyed to achieve them. I am 100% sure that too many of us are so thoroughly corrupt in our thinking that we continuously ignore the harm we inflict because we only know how to progress using pain and death. And I am 100% sure that all we can spawn is mini-monster replicants – individuals who learn from birth to harm. Individuals who learn to disregard, to dismiss; who harm intentionally and with gleeful malice. Monsters who try to mitigate the harm they do because harming others has been hard-wired into our social conditioning and for some of us, our fucking survival.
American culture’s natural default has been cultivated to be exploitative and abusive. Those who embrace it become social and political leaders. Those who passively allow it, actively protect those who embrace it. Those who ignore it, allow it to happen and protect their right to ignore it, which in turn protects its wielders. And those who claim to resist, only resist until they realize they have been protecting and harboring monsters and can’t stand the idea that they are monsters too.
True resistance requires a complete dismantling and destruction of the norm. It requires personal interrogation of ourselves and the acknowledgement that we’re fucked up. I say this as someone who continues to struggle with the actions and punishment of Bill Cosby – not because I doubt his guilt. Not because I don’t think he deserves prison or worse, but as someone who still harbors affection for the memory I have of Bill Cosby’s presence in my formative years despite the fact that he’s a hideous man. Because I can remember bonding with my family using his comedy routines. Because I remember singing the chocolate cake song and giggling with my parent uncontrollably. I remember anticipating those Huxtable anniversary episodes to see what choreographed lip-sync they would do that year. I have so many fond memories of Bill Cosby, from Picture Pages to The Cosby Show which went off the air my junior year of high school. That show was aspirational, but its front man was a horror show. I am sad, and yet, this is nothing new.
Growing up as a descendant of american chattel slavery (DACS -thank you Seren for introducing me to this terminology), none of this shit is new. Imperialism refined exploitation and privilege to an invisible and accepted norm. It instilled us with hierarchies and intersections of privilege that were barely perceptible and manufactured a desire for subjugation in the subjugated by making it into a form of survival. We trade off protection and harm, willingly casting harm onto strangers to protect those we care about and each time we survive the choice between harming or dying, we numb ourselves a little more to what it does. We are endlessly tempted by the idea that if we’re a tiny bit complicit, we can gain access, change things from the inside, and improve it for those who come after us. We rationalize that “small amount” of suffering experienced by the few is worth the infinite opportunities we create for the many. It’s seductive, being lured into the oppressor’s good graces…until your complicity is indistinguishable from theirs. Until you reap benefits that were previously unattainable. Until the idea of harming some people to reach your goal becomes less and less horrid and becomes the way things are done. It’s hard watching yourself become the monster you told yourself you were fighting and as that hypocrisy becomes less and less bearable, you decide to stop caring. You tell yourself everyone is doing it and everyone else wants in because the benefits for you, your family, your friends are worth the sacrifice of your morality and your conscience. And besides, if you can’t see who you harm, are you really harming anyone?
To survive america, you always gotta sacrifice something…and more often than not, it’s your integrity. Because true revolution requires complete and total destruction of the norm. It requires a vision of a future without exploitation, something we fail to imagine even in the games we play. Revolution requires a complete destruction of everything you hold dear. It requires bloodshed and tears and love and loss. It requires recognizing the monster you are and killing that part of yourself that still cares about the well-being of the monsters among us. It requires holding yourself and those around you to a higher standard, one that is out of sync with contemporary values, and rooting out the corruption and liars, the abusers and exploiters and oppressors regardless of the form they take – be it parent, sibling, child, lover, friend, neighbor. It means holding all those fuckers accountable for the harm they do and excising them from the society you seek to build when they refuse to repent and make amends for their actions and the actions of those who came before them.
We all gotta own our shit. We gotta acknowledge it and live with it. We gotta hold ourselves accountable. And we gotta hold those around us accountable for their shit, too…even when it costs everything. And it’s gonna cost us everything…especially those we love.
We not ready for a real revolution. But maybe one day we will be.