Day 1024

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I had the whole day to write and revise and was focused much of the day, but wasn't able to sustain things beyond a few hours before veering off into tangents like YouTube videos and my Kindle.  This sometimes happens after a busy stretch when I'm back in writing mode.  I read maybe 50 pages of Frederick Douglass's first slave narrative on my kindle after seeing a thick copy of Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Richard and Lisa's over Halloween.  It got me thinking about Solomon Northup's 12 Years a Slave narrative I read last year after watching the film.  Reading these narratives are surreal because it's difficult to imagine just how cruel and inhumane many of the slaveholders were in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Frederick Douglass's narrative is no different. Reading it takes my breath away.  Not only did he endure unspeakable acts of cruelty and punishment, he also learned how to read and write whenever he had the chance, often in secret for fear of repercussions if caught educating himself.  That he was able to articulate his life experience so beautifully and clearly with such force and grace is stunning even now, 170 years after his first narrative was published.  I'm struck by many of his insights, in particular how the most religious personalities he encountered were typically also the most cruel and inhumane.  I've noticed that myself in life, the hypocrisy of the extremely religious and how consumed they are with vengeance and punishment (I remember the arguments Pete Santorum and Michele Bachman made in favor of waterboarding four years ago during the GOP debates and how chilling their vicious perspectives were).  I will never understand sustained, methodic cruelty.  I get having bad days, being in a bad mood and sometimes being snippy and short with people, but not every moment of every day over the course of months and years.  Some of these slaveholders were so sadistic and sociopathic while the slave system they supported encouraged their depravity and acceptance toward pure evil. Reading Douglass reminds me of Christopher Hitchens who said, "religion makes morally normal people do wicked and disgusting things." So much of the argument for slavery in the 19th century comes from a religious context in which God has condoned the practice of slavery as pure and good and Christian. It's all there in the historical record.  No wonder the most religious and extreme among us have no patience whatsoever with history, facts and actual narratives written by actual human beings who had to endure such unimaginable horrors.  The horrors exist to this day in an economic slave trade that impacts 20-30 million people.  Man, I've had it so made in life.  Like living the dream.  

No comments:

Post a Comment