All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal. Check. All lives matter. Black lives are lives. Therefore black lives matter. Check. But if you say black lives matter, and I respond with all lives matter, I’ll be taken to have denied that black lives matter. Such is the weirdness of our language. Pity the ESL student trying to learn it.
Many women are the targets of domestic violence. Check. But if I add that so are many men, I’ll be taken to have trivialised domestic violence against women. As would I be taken – given that silence is violence – if I remain silent. I find this very awkward. I know I’m required to say something. But not unlike at a funeral, I never know what to say in response to these banalities. I didn’t think I was, but now I’m beginning to wonder if I might be on the spectrum.
Not knowing what to say doesn’t excuse me from knowing what not to say. So when a student off the rez says the residential schools were an attempt at genocide, do not ask where she’s living now. When the EDI director demands that I decolonise the classroom, do not ask if she’d mind stepping outside into the cold and repeating that in Sanskrit. If the SJW reminds you that consent must be explicit, enthusiastic, specific and ongoing, do not ask which is she, a rape victim or a virgin.
This is not to say that any of these are things I have said. But according to St. Augustine and Jimmy Carter, I’m as guilty for having thought them. Why? Because Tourettes doesn’t count as a disability unless it’s expressed, which mine isn’t. Nevertheless I feel genuinely afflicted by these impolitic thoughts. That I can’t simply suppress them the way I do – I mean the way I would – a sexual fetish, say, for alligator-skin women’s handbags. But I digress.