The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Musing on Ralph Ellison

In high school, Margaret Traylor suggested I read The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

I did. Was not impressed.

MT was surprised. She was convinced the book would resonate heavily with me. At the time, owing probably to my being an invincible teenager, it did not. I expected a science fiction novel, not a commentary on society.

More than three decades later, it does resonate. I don't remember a lot of the books I read in high school, but The Invisible Man has stuck with me. Mr. Ellison's unnamed narrator (as I remember him anyway) speaks to me now as never before.

The events of the past week and bit more have drawn me back to Mr. Ellison's work. Plato and Socrates are also knocking hard at my door with King Solomon standing behind them urging me to hurry up and open the door.

Ambrose Bierce, Samuel Clements, Voltaire, Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Swift, Robin Williams and a few other writers are not demanding entrance, but are standing by smirking. A few current writing buds, none of whom you know (I will still not identify them because they are yet living) – never mind. 

Plenty of people have weighed in on a couple of subjects this week and given me an incredible amount to think on. Truly I tell you, I WIN! Any time someone makes me think, the victory goes to me. (Any time I can get someone to think, THEY WIN!)

At the same time, I have been dismissed out of hand and subsequently ignored. I've been called an intolerant racist bigoted idiot more full of feces than a constipated blue whale and certainly bound for perdition.

That hurts, a hell of a lot, because it reminds me that I have treated other people the exact same way.

That hurts, because that is not the person I want to be.

That hurts, because some of the people doing this previously called on me to help. I was there for them. Now, I'm less than nothing. Mr. Ellison, I feel your pain. In case you don't wonder, if they call, I'll be there for 'em again. Invisible men can do things visible men can't.

I must tell the humoristas sniggering in the corner to take a hike. Not gonna walk that path. (If you don't get this, I ain't explaining it any further.) I need to open the door to the others.
Most importantly, I need these dismissive people in my life. No snark intended. I need them because they will remind me of what I could easily become. They serve as a reference point, a lighthouse warning me of reefs and rocks I should steer clear of. They remind me that just because I vehemently disagree with someone does not mean I cannot find something in them to respect. I must look harder.

I need them because this world does not need another Invisible Man.

If you are one of those who sees fit to consign me to Mr. Elllison's invisibility, thank you. I'm going to find the other people you've treated this way and the people I've treated this way. You'll never know I'm doing it.

When, not if, someone treats you the same way, I'll come looking for you and welcome you into our group.

You are not the next Inivisble Man. I see you even if no one else will admit to seeing you.

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