(note: there’s talk of sexual violence in this post, and talk about Oscar Grant’s murder…)
I have a standing meeting with my friend, Peggy Simmons (of Green Windows Writing Groups) on Thursdays at 4. We talk by phone, sometimes in person, about how our week is going, what’s happening with workshops or recruiting or connecting with organizations about the possibility of offering workshops (Peggy does amazing work with younger writers at The Beat Within, and with an intergenerational group of writers at her monthly writing group at Rock Paper Scissors in Oakland). It’s a time of peer support and “supervision,” for me, when I can be accountable for the work I’ve said I need/want to do with Writing Ourselves Whole, where I can celebrate successes and process what’s rough.
She texted me at about 3:30 to say that the Mehserle verdict was to be read at 4, so we started talking a bit earlier, just to connect, to hear each other. Peggy had followed the trial closer than I had, I think, and she’s still in Oakland, while I spend last night watching the events on TV and via twitter/facebook from my home in the North Bay, instead of being a part of the energy around Lake Merritt. We didn’t talk about work much, of course. We talked about the media’s consistent drum beat over the last week or so about the threat of riots in Oakland when the verdict was read. Over and over you heard it: Please, everyone, be calm. Be calm. Keep the peace. We don’t want any riots. Meanwhile, OPD was, can we say it, circling the wagons, calling in reinforcements, training for riot control. The Oakland government said, at the same time, that it respected the right of folks to gather, and encouraged people to stay home. Organizing messages that got passed along online said that folks should bring earplugs if they came out for the support rally/speakout/protest after the verdict was read: they’d heard there was a sonic control device that OPD was going to “test out.”
I don’t know about you, but when I’m frustrated, sad, disappointed, hurt, angry, and the only thing someone can say to me is, “Calm down, just calm down. Breathe. Just don’t get upset. Are you upset? Calm down. Take a deep breath. No one wants any trouble. Just relax,” over and over and over (when, in point of fact, I may very well be calm at the same time as I am frustrated, sad, disappointed, hurt, angry), I get a little crazy. I have that double-vision that trauma leaves us with, that looking at myself from the outside (wait, am I acting out of order? I’m just feeling angry! Don’t I have the right to be angry?) while also trying to be in my feelings; I feel the need to reassure the person (“No, no, I’m not upset, I’m ok”), to take care of them instead of attending to and dealing with what I’m feeling. So that the loss, the sorrow, the rage, it’s stuck in me while I’m taking care of the person who’s ready for me to fly off the handle — when at no point was I ready to fly off the handle, until they started with their control that looked, on the surface, like concern or worry for my well-being.