Nury Martinez is a Human Being, and I am Concerned with her Future
Several people on Facebook have unfriended me since I remarked on my wish, yesterday, to help Nury Martinez, the disgraced former L.A. councilwoman. (If you have been under a rock, here’s a summary of why she is so vilified.)
I have written before of my calling to the cancelled. I know how to survive a cancellation, the loss of an income, public disgrace, criminal charges, homelessness. Though every cancellation is different, they are also all the same: the outrage, the shame, the initial defiance (sometimes bravado) of the cancelled — all soon followed by the devastating, unimaginably painful loss of status, respect, security, and friendship. Not everyone survives.
I make it clear I do not condone what Nury said, but I am concerned primarily with what she does next to rebuild her life after having become the most hated woman in the recent history of Los Angeles politics.
I also get that my views, my words, and my actions will exasperate and bewilder and sometimes alienate. I get that some folks wish to interrogate, but Facebook is not a court and I do not need to justify my calling to the cancelled any more than I already have.
It is okay to unfriend or mute people who irk or hurt you. It is better to do it silently, but if you must make sure I know why it is you are leaving, I am happy to read what you say and wish you well on your journey.
Though I will always struggle to be polite -- and if I can manage it, even winsome and engaging -- at the end, I know damn well I am not most people's cup of tea. It is okay to say to me, or anyone else, "You are not who I thought you were, and though it pains me, I need to let you go."
I have spent nine years reeling from the collapse of the life I knew. Very few of you reading this have lost as many once-close friends as I have, or at least I hope you haven’t. The art of losing isn’t hard to master, wrote the poet, but damn, I really got good at it. Not just thousands of unfollowings and blockings on social media, but the complete disappearance from my life of once-dear colleagues and companions who could not bear to remain in my life after my shameful conduct.
That leaves an indelible scar. And it has left me with a very clear conception of my work as a defender of and a counsel to those who are most despised. This is not reflexive adolescent contrarianism, though the armchair pop psychologists would have it be so. This is a sense of vocation, of calling, and a sense that that calling will continue to exact a very high price.
The great poet Stanley Kunitz writes
I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
(This may strike you as grandiose, but I’ve met a lot of people who have a sense of calling, and when impassioned and attacked, they too often slip into at least a mild grandiosity!)
My will is intact to go wherever I need to go, for my family and my children and for the ancestors who call me to live a life of purpose, even if that purpose comes at a high cost.
Someday, this country will awaken from a collective madness, as we awoke from McCarthyism, and the Satanic Panics of the 1690s — and 1980s. Someday, we will stop disguising our fear and our rage and our cruelty in a shabby, spike-encrusted costume we call "long-overdue accountability.” Someday… well, that’s always the cry of those who find themselves out of favor, isn’t it? Someday, you’ll all see the error of your ways! Someday, you’ll admit you were wrong! Someday, the forgiveness; someday, the welcoming home; someday, the wiping clean of the slate.
Until that day, I’m prepared to keep on losing friends and opportunities alike in order to defend the basic principle that even the most disgraceful among us are human beings deserving of kindness, counsel, and a plan.
Normally, I listen to country music while I write, but I have something more energetic in my ear buds. An old Van Halen song plays, and the boys who first met at Pasadena City College sing
You know I’ve been to the edge, and there I stood and looked down; you know I’ve lost a lot of friends there, baby, ain’t got no time to mess around.
I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I found this post extremely moving and courageous. I wish more people would stand up and say what (I believe) they really feel about this particular zeitgeist.
All this exposure and getting hell bent on punishing those who fail to be perfect is absurd. “People in glass houses….”
When did the “moral police” walk into town? This is still America right?