sleeping woman

How Do You Sleep?

Perhaps the best way to explain morality and our actions is by asking the question how do you sleep? Morals are subjective. Personal morals might be influenced by some outside source like religion or what we call “politics,” but at the end of the day the only judgement you really have to live with is that from yourself. So again I ask—how do you sleep?

Personally, if I’m stressing about a decision I’ve made because of its moral ramifications, I will not be able to sleep. As I mentioned in an earlier post I was who you might consider one of those irresponsible spring breakers living it up at the clubs in Cancún in March as the coronavirus pandemic slowly and then rapidly broke out in the US and beyond. But let me tell you: the night before I left, I barely slept. Tossing and turning at the thought that I would get somebody sick or be perceived as a malicious and ignorant person kept me awake.

And yes, again, I did go. Because we all have limits for what we’ll just accept and get over or negotiate our morals, right? This is not to say “poor poor pitiful me, I couldn’t sleep the night before vacation.” It’s to say that I personally deal with a physical response when I compromise on my own morals. I’ve done things against my morals for friends or due to peer pressure, or because I simply told myself “it’s not that bad.” We all do. That’s human nature and it’s part of growth. Personal morals change over time.

Yet, frankly I see so many people and experience myself this endless anxiety over a new moral panic every week. Whether it’s a massive event like a pandemic or national protest or a viral Instagram challenge, we’re constantly faced with these things that become moral dilemmas while we decide whether or not to participate. Celebrities get caught up in this time and time again where they do a thing or share a thing without doing an hour of research and find themselves “canceled” or “called out” or “clapped back” because their good intentions were lost in translation. 

Remember the ice bucket challenge? It was like a hundred years ago or something and thousands of people shared videos of themselves dumping ice water on their heads to “raise awareness” and money for ALS research. In one sense it was another stupid internet trend. In a more important sense, it raised millions of dollars for ALS research, which even led to a breakthrough in the fight against the disease. 

You will not find a video of me participating in the ice bucket challenge in the archives of the internet. Am I pro-ALS? No. IF I even was officially “challenged” at the time I didn’t feel like I had the means to make a donation, so I simply didn’t participate in the self-serving part of the challenge (sharing a video of myself for likes). The point is while I understood the fun and importance of raising awareness through this medium, by the time it was “my turn” to participate, I wasn’t adding anything. Everyone I would reach with my platform was more than likely already aware of the disease and/or the challenge. 

Did I lose sleep over my lack of participation? Not really. I did weigh the moral implications of how I would feel if I made a video and didn’t donate. While morally, I supported and believed in the importance of the cause, I was able to sleep tight knowing there were plenty of other people doing the work who could do it better than me.

Whenever you’re faced with a moral challenge such as: do I join this protest? Do I speak in support of this issue? Do I take part in this social media challenge? Ask yourself: how will you sleep? I haven’t joined a protest since ever, frankly. One time I went to a DACA protest but I left to have a panic attack in Central Park instead of marching. But Kamaron, don’t you harp on action and being real and standing up for what’s right? Yes! But I know my limits and my place and it is not the streets. How do I sleep knowing my friends, my peers, people I don’t know are out in the streets taking bullets, tear gas, and beatings for me and my rights? I find my place to support. I give money. I write. I share information. I talk to people, try to educate where I can. Those are some of my places. 

In recent years as it appears the general population has become more and more politically (I use that word loosely) engaged, I keep seeing the phrase “silence is violence” as well as that Desmond Tutu quote about being neutral in the face of oppression. Most recently, I’ve found myself brimming with rage at the silence of some of my peers when it has come to such issues as whether or not Black people deserve rights among plenty of other atrocities. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of people “speak out” on issues by way of posting a black square or cute graphic saying “racism is bad” with little or no other visible work being done for the cause. 

Do you all have a “moral obligation” to do something? Well, what are your morals? How do you sleep at night knowing there are thousands of kids sleeping on floors in cages? How do you sleep at night knowing the president is sending rogue militia to kidnap people off the street? How do you sleep at night knowing people will be homeless due to an ongoing pandemic? How do you sleep at night knowing people will die from this pandemic not from the illness outright, but because they couldn’t afford treatment? How do you sleep at night knowing people in this country have been dying every day for years simply because they can’t afford simple medical treatment? 

There is too much work to be done for any of us to be sleeping at night, yes. But my point is are you doing enough to feel like you are contributing something for the sake of your own beliefs? No I don’t lose sleep over the fact that I didn’t solve homelessness today, but I might sleep better knowing I engaged with someone on the street today or even helped support them financially today. 

But Kamaron, isn’t it performative to do things just to make yourself feel better? Well dear reader, let me ask you this: what makes you feel good? Nothing makes me feel better, frankly, than justice and seeing people if only for a moment get a little bit better. So when I do things for what I believe are the greater good, I feel good. Sometimes I need more time to understand what I believe, but when I form an opinion, I usually share it one way or another. And if it’s something I’m willing to fight for, you bet I’m finding a way to fight for it. 

Some people can’t say the same. Or they say they believe something but their actions to support that statement are few or nonexistent. To those people, I ask: how do you sleep? And I know some of them have trouble sleeping because they get back on social media after they’ve been called out to try to defend themselves. I mean it’s one thing when they just get something wrong and they come back and say “I messed up.” I’m talking about the defenders who “do a thing” and after some backlash come back to say they “stand by” that thing “but some parts should have been thought through more” and they’re “listening and learning.” All that apologetic poetry that just says: “this was stupid and I thought it was cute.” 

Remember the “Imagine” video? Something like 17 years ago Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot led a bunch of celebrities in creating a montage of them poorly singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” in an effort to cheer up the world engulfed in a pandemic. It did not go over well for several reasons, but as with plenty of things I think the backlash was a bit excessive. However, had each celebrity that participated done something meaningful to accompany this dumb gratuitious bit, no one would have made fun of their impeccable inability to keep a tune to one of the most recognizable songs in the world.

People scoffed and memed and mocked because all these celebrities filmed themselves in their million dollar mansions pretending that it was hard for them to “be in lockdown” too. Meanwhile, hospital staffers used garbage bags for protection and millions of people filed for unemployment. What Gal Gadot and company did was not harmful or even wrong in my view, but it just begs the question: how do you sleep? If you’re a multi-million dollar earning entertainer who uses their platform to speak about how you want people to have better conditions, you want people to feel better, you want things to get better—it would occur to me that you could use your endless supply of resources to do something meaningful towards those goals. Tell me you didn’t think singing Imagine was the best you thought you could do—how would you sleep?

And maybe they all sleep just fine, because again—it’s personal. And it can be private. There is also not a ton of good in announcing every time you do a good thing, but that’s my point. If you are able to go to sleep every night assuring yourself you helped make the world a better place today, then sweet dreams. But if you’re not sleeping well, maybe there’s a reason. 

It’s a Trap

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. They do not warn you just how exhausting that whole exercise can be. It has taken me days to try to put together some words about what I’m feeling right now. I’ve started and stopped several different pieces, started conversations and abandoned them citing a lack of energy. 

Is this the week that America snapped? The timeline of events has been flashing through my head over and over again in mixed up disarray. Did that video just come out? Was it an old video or was that the other one? Wait and they killed her just last week? And didn’t we just do this?

It feels like a trap. Because the murder of George Floyd was nothing new. Having it on video was nothing new. We had the verbatim script from Eric Garner—the t-shirts were already printed. Yet now? During a global pandemic which was only receding because we were staying inside we have been dragged out of our homes to try to tell the world yet again Black lives—our lives—matter?

Do not read this as me saying that people should not be protesting. I stand behind the movement although I am not with them physically. I am saying it feels like some greater force orchestrated this whole sinister thing: make a pandemic, make it disproportionately affect Black people, then do something so heinous on camera and spread it faster than the virus to make Black people so mad they leave the safety of their homes, then spray them with chemicals that can make them more susceptible to the virus. Yes I know, the master composers here are Racism™   and probably Murphy’s law but I also want to imagine a Joker-esque madman behind the curtain.

When I first read about the Trojan horse I felt like, “That’s crazy. Why would the Trojans just welcome this random giant horse into their city?” The video of Floyd’s murder hit my timeline and for a brief moment I felt like “That’s crazy. Why would Black people just welcome this random giant horse into their city?” I am praying that we do not see this pandemic completely explode following these protests. I know people are taking precautions. But when we’ve seen so many of these unjust murders happen when we weren’t in a pandemic, there’s that cautious part of me that begs why now—yes why did they have to kill George now? Of course—why did they have to kill him at all? But why is he the tipping point this time? Why is this the video that made so many people in my timeline, so many CEOs, so many PR agents say, “You know what? I think Black Lives might Matter!” 

Something had to give. Racism, theoretically, is not eternally sustainable given the rate of intermixing. And something tells me that all the Februaries in the world were not going to change enough hearts to rid the world of the plague that is racism. We’ve hit another boiling point, and I do hope somehow it’s the last one and at some point we all come out of this singing Kumbaya.

The point of a revolution is for the ideas to go mainstream, right? We want to totally replace the “old way” with a new way. So I am celebrating the huge mass of social media posts I’ve seen from just about everyone in my networks. People I thought would never utter the words “Black Lives Matter” had tributes to Ahmaud Arbery in their stories. These were not racists in my head, just not people who had ever spoken out against racism to my knowledge. And there is the part of me that dismisses these posts. They’re disingenuous. They’re performative. They’re for the benefit of the poster, not the cause. But I do appreciate the turnout of awareness regardless of my skepticism. Everybody has to start somewhere.

But like my social media followers, the brands got on board very quickly too. Suddenly places I’d shopped were sending me emails about what they’re doing for social justice. Again, I’m baffled at the speed at which this moment caught on. I mean—the speed and the slowness, right? Because it has taken centuries for Black Lives Matter to go mainstream but it also only took a week? 

I’m old enough to remember 6 years ago when the rest of the country watched Ferguson on the news as if it was somewhere we were bombing in the Middle East. This time everyone watched Minneapolis and said “I want in!” It’s incredible to see this movement go mainstream. And I am praying that we see positive change come because of it. But I am also fuming.

The adults—and particularly the white adults—in the room of America should be so ashamed of themselves. We don’t have a single excuse to be uneducated to the issues affecting us. Racism affects everyone. How has it taken so many people this long to figure that out? Did they think Obama fixed everything? Did you think we were kidding every time we pointed out symptoms of the problem?

Yes we’re marching for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and every other Black person killed or harmed by state violence, but we’re also still marching because #OscarsSoWhite. We’re also still marching for equal pay. We’re also still marching to make you stop wearing blackface. We’re also still marching for reparations. We’re marching for all those things you said “weren’t a big deal” while also marching for this the thing that has made you realize it’s a big deal. 

I’m trying to channel all of my anger where it belongs: at the structures that are upholding white supremacy, not the people who are at least pretending to fight it. There are a lot of moving parts to a revolution and it is far from my job to be taking attendance and temperature checks at the door. 

The Quarantine Diaries

You have my full permission to begin reading this by first stepping outside and screaming at the top of your lungs for a few seconds.

Welcome back. I have to be completely honest, and I don’t know if this makes me “that guy” for anybody, but ever since I was a kid I have always had a feeling deep in my spirit that I would be here on earth for the end of the world. Growing up in church whenever they talked about Jesus returning, I just kind of felt like I’m definitely going to be there when that happens. I imagine other people think about what retirement will look like or what dying will feel like. I have always had some kind of rapture while I’m still living.

I don’t bring up the end of the world because I think this pandemic is the end of the world. I bring it up because this is as close to the end of the world as I have ever felt. I’m young—I barely remember 9/11, I never experienced a situation like the draft or nuclear bomb drills. I imagine they felt kind of like this—unpredictable, chaotic, and confusing.

Full disclosure: I might be considered one of the pesky “spring breakers” who refused to give up her vacation as the pandemic unfolded. Yes I spent a week in Cancún right before the US started shutting down. I pray I am not carrying the disease and did not spread it to anyone down there or en route—yes, I took extra precautions to help that. But the night before I left as my friend’s parents begged me not to go, I thought you know, if the world is ending I wanna be on the beach.

By the time I returned to New York it was highly encouraged that I work from home, restaurants and bars were closing or going take-out only. Within a couple of days the gyms and everything else went too. I went to the grocery store and settled in to social distance.

Prior to my trip I was getting sick to my stomach and having trouble sleeping. The reports of what would become the current pandemic absolutely terrified me. The uncertainty of it all nauseated me. I have to shut my eyes and pretend I believe things are going to be normal again soon.

What surprised me is how quickly my body has adapted to the new normal. When I go outside and see flowers blooming, I have felt shock, like “Oh. It’s spring? And the world is still spinning out here?” Part of it comes with the homesickness. After a year of living in the city, I kind of forgot what nature sounds like—at least what it sounds like in the suburbs when you hear birds chirping and cicadas singing in the summer. I miss my family. They’re gonna read this and say “Why don’t you come home?” But it’s not safe. 

We humans are pretty good at adapting. We kick and scream and gnash our teeth about it but those of us in these super-infected areas have introduced an entirely different way of life in a couple of weeks. It’s not perfect. In fact, it’s very broken, but companies like mine that could move remote barely missed a beat. That’s why it’s so strange to me when I go out it feels like a zombie or apocalyptic movie. Things look and appear normal—not necessarily devastated by a huge disaster—but then you see a sign that’s like “Always carry your zombie repellant” and you’re like oh right that exists in this universe. I walk around the block and things are normal. Then I see the closed TJ Maxx and people in masks and I remember oh right this is my reality.

When I visited Italy last October, my friend and I had trouble appreciating the magnificence of the Vatican because the crowds were so overwhelming. It felt like I visited the inside of other people’s mouths for 2 hours. Seeing the pictures of Italy’s deserted streets and the ones right here in New York make me long for that sea of bodies (okay never that many people in such a tiny space again). It is one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments but of course, no one would have wished for this. 

I am blessed. I am eternally grateful that so far I have been relatively unaffected by this pandemic. My family is safe, I am safe, we have our jobs and our homes. We will probably get through this.

But wow this sucks.