This isn’t strictly speaking, about Kendrick Lamar. I was listening to files on my phone during a train ride to NYC the other day, and the album DAMN came on automatically after my original file ended.
“Fear” gets me in a wild mood. The song begins with a recording of an uncle offering scripture as wisdom. Another voice enters, asking god to explain and then end his misery, and then finally KL recites a litany of “I beat your ass” cliches that guardians say to get their kids to grow up faster. The song ends with him then reciting ways he will probably die.
I beat your ass if you walk into the house with tears in your eyes…
Are we fortunate to be able to demonstrate weakness and vulnerability today? I think so. I hope so.
I’ve been talking about the strangeness of secrets for a while. And weeks ago I suggested it was ironic that a sign of loyalty in a friend was their ability to keep a secret. This was in reference to the double-agent spy show Alias, where the main character Sydney has to keep her identity secret from everybody but a select few people. She keeps her identity secret from lovers and friends. The irony to me is that we are depending on a person’s ability to lie as an indication of their loyalty. This has always struck me as problematic. But you know, I had a revelation today. The point of the secrecy is that it forces you to stay. Keeping a secret means you intend on staying. The secrets indicate loyalty not because you are lying, but because they only matter if you want to stay close to the people those secrets protect. If you can keep a secret, you cannot leave. If Sydney leaves the CIA, the black ops team, if we leave our abusive family, the confused friend, the traumatized survivor, the angels and the demons, then suddenly you have no secrets to keep.
I beat your ass if you tell the social workers he still lives here.
I am not writing this because I have any personal revelations. This is about listening to Fear on my way to New York, to be on stage with a friend with whom I’d had a fight of life-changing dimensions years ago. “We’re cool now” as the saying goes, but it took years of talking about what happened between us, for it to get here. It took a lot not to run away from the conflict. I credit her with dragging me back in. We learned a lot. I can take anything now. If we can do it, you can, too. So I ask again: are we lucky we get to demonstrate weakness and vulnerability? The answer has to be yes.
I beat your ass you keep talking back.
The answer has to be yes, though, because our demonstrated behavior is no. I wear big girl pants to work everyday and big girl pants when my kid gets sick and big girl pants when my dad calls.
Sometimes when I’m biting my tongue, offended by dumb shit I hear in the world, I spin so many times wondering if my indignation will ever have the caliber of cancel culture, of ratio-ing. Nothing has worked so far so I reserve my energy. Who are these people getting under my skin?
I beat your ass who bought that for you?
So here’s a new rule: let’s practice discretion, not to keep things secret, but to keep things sacred. Let secrecy be our special club, but let everyone know it is there. Let’s be forthright that others cannot join. You offend me, you offend my family, as the saying goes. Let secrecy be the symbolism of a pyramid of oranges at the altar of dead children, and not the fetishizing of their massacre.
I’ll probably die with promises.