One Saturday early in these weird 2020 times, a hundred hopes and dreams laid out before me, including the novel I’m working on and the novel I’m trying to move to the next step after that, I suddenly needed to finish something. The unfinished reading I could knock out the easiest happened to be A Night to Remember, the true story of the sinking of the Titanic by Walter Lord.
YEP. I read about an American/world tragedy during the pandemic because that seemed like a good idea. And then it wasn’t the worst idea because I got to the “never again” parts.
According to Lord, since the Titanic: 1) Atlantic liners take ice messages seriously, 2) no one believes in unsinkable ships, 3) the International Ice Patrol was established to shepherd errant icebergs out of steamer lanes, 4) class distinctions no longer determine the filling of the lifeboats, and 5) never again can the world fall apart while the wireless operator lay sleeping off-duty on a ship only ten miles away.
How precious are those words.
I haven’t known how to enter the online conversation about how Black Americans experience life in this country. I posted a black square one Tuesday because it seemed a mistake-free way to show my support for people I love (and people I don’t know at all for that matter). Then I removed it because Black voices on Twitter told me 1) the black squares deluded the original intent to amplify Black artists in the music industry, 2) that the silent, faceless squares rather symbolized than protested the fact that Black Americans aren’t given a voice, and 3) posting a square was hypocritical, to say the least, if my real-life activism didn’t match, and frankly it didn’t.
I don’t know what to say, that’s what I’m saying. I’m also deeply stubborn and more likely to eye-roll being told what to do but obey it secretly than to tell the world how on-board I am with a movement. It’s possible this is the last thing I will say online about this subject, and Twitter and Facebook will never know that in real life I am here for this conversation until what’s wrong is better, until I have fully realized the problem and what I can do about it, until I no longer take for granted that I have never wondered if because of the color of my skin I will not be accepted or safe or allowed to get ahead.
One of the filmmakers for The Switch (2010, Jason Bateman) summarized the movie this way, and it describes very much how I feel about all of life, to be honest.
You might be in New York and be a totally narcissistic, material, career-oriented person; but given enough time and people who intrude in your life, if you open up to it, you have a chance of becoming a much better person than you were in the beginning.
Given enough time…if you’re open to it.
More than 1,500 people died in one night on a ship in 1912, an international patrol was established, people began to be treated equally at least in the case of sinking ships, ships changed the way they listen to one another and respond, and an entire belief system was abandoned forever.
Big change is possible; that’s what that tells me.
On a similar note of which I am even more confident, change in me is fully possible, too.