So, here’s a thing about my writing process for YOUTHFRONT: the world and the relationships between chapters are complex enough that I err towards writing every chapter a couple of months in advance of publication. This gives me time to go back and make edits on immediately preceding chapters based on subtle changes or things that emerge later on.
As a result, I never really know what world a chapter will be born into until I do my final edits for publication.
Today’s chapter was one I had a lot of fun writing, trying to tie together some questions I’ve been asking myself about embracing problematic people and reconciling the fact that someone does good work with the fact that someone has something wicked inside of them.
You can likely imagine how strange it would be to edit such a piece in the wake of our current cultural ‘moment.’ Now that a few influential white men have finally experienced condemnation (if not consequence) for their misbehavior, there’s a huge push to silence victims. People want to shove the genie back into the bottle.
That’s never okay. It’s understandably difficult to reconcile one’s love of a creator or one’s faith in a thought leader with mounting evidence of their misbehavior. Nobody wants to believe that the path to something they love has been paved in part with evil.
I don’t think that’s a problem any of us really get out of, and I don’t think it’s productive to try. Purity is a distraction. Accepting the inevitability that we are tainted frees up the time we would spend convincing ourselves otherwise. Instead, we need to focus on listening to survivors and victims. We need to figure out what we can do to concretely make things better for the people our societal failures put at risk.
I don’t believe in punishment for its own sake. The fabric of our moralities is too absurd and fragile to serve as its own justification for suffering. If someone behaves monstrously, that is a problem to be solved. We should seek to contain and correct misbehavior- not enact cruelty upon it.
At the same time, the rhetoric of ‘forgiveness’ quickly becomes a shield for the powerful. I do not oppose forgiveness in theory. But I do oppose how the rhetoric of forgiveness is only deployed on behalf of those who have already built the structure of our society to defend them. I oppose the fact that America can find its way to forgive a serial abuser when it is politically convenient but fail to forgive even imaginary slights from the people we oppress.
When we magically ‘discover’ our better nature only when it lets us indulge our worse nature, we make a mockery of our deepest principles.
Today’s piece captures some of this, though through a fractured lens. NASCARnage is, like many of us, a man twisted up and confused inside, trying to find the path of least monstrosity. He finds himself trailing a few lost leads along the way. We need not forgive him but it will help us to understand his travels.