Saturday, November 19, 2016

On being present in a time of danger

by J J Cohen

Hello everyone,

I want to share with you a few thoughts about public presence, speaking out and security. 

Belonging to any publicly visible group with an activist or somewhat liberal or even a humane slant is a risk. Such groups include educators, writers, publishers, artists. Speaking individually or collectively as a member of such a group is a risk. Community is a perilous endeavor, inherently. So is having opinions or ethical stances and disseminating them by speaking in groups or classrooms, tweeting, blogging, or utilizing other kinds of social media. 

Writers, artists, thinkers do public work. We strive to support each other -- and anyone endangered by hate -- visibly, collectively, resoundingly. We belong to a collective even when we speak individually (a heavy burden to bear, and for some of us, unwanted). That visibility means, though, that we cannot ensure animus, harassment and worse will not come our way. That possibility is certainly something to keep in mind in the days ahead, especially in the footprint of your social media presence. I have seen some people deleting their Facebook accounts. I certainly understand that impulse.

Personally I think we are always at risk, but that we ought to better bear in mind how some of us are far more at risk than others. In the wake of the election we have seen a litany of populations singled out for hate: the disabled, LGBTQI individuals and groups, people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, Jews, women. Opting out of presence typically increases danger to those who can't go invisible. Being public both shares that pervasive risk more widely and assists in building more capacious shelters from harm. If we refuse visibility, outreach or outrage in the name of safety, we lose. If we choose quiet privacy over public action, we lose. If we shun risk and allow others to pay the price for the preservation of our small safeties, we lose.

Thanks for being here. 


[I originally wrote this post for the group WATCH and adapted it for Twitter. I share a rethought version here for you to do with as you will, including telling me I'm wrong.]

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