Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hope and Deliverance

It’s not just that I think Rebecca Drysdale is wonderful. It’s that the world is a vastly better and richer place because Rebecca Drysdale is in it. I would become a lesbian for Rebecca Drysdale.

This is why:

It's her contribution to YouTube’s “It Gets Better” campaign, kicked off by Dan Savage and his partner in the fall in response to a cascade of highly publicized suicides by bullied queer teens and young adults. It’s brilliantly produced, stunningly edited music video. The lyrics are supple and brash. The choreography moves like sexy lightning.

But it’s the balance of rage, compassion, and the celebratory promise of hope that takes her video to the top of my list. An often-voiced critique of the campaign over the last months has been that too many segments–certainly not all of them, but more than a few–however well-intentioned, leave the kids who watch them in limbo, no clearer than they were before about how to survive the oppression and pain they endure daily, no clearer about how they’ll ever make it from the hell they’re living in to the safe haven they’re told awaits them. There’s no bridge from here to there, but a great gulf fixed.

What sets this video apart is that it briefly but vividly imagines individual lives and dwells on them from the inside. Rebecca doesn’t just offer herself as an example of a survivor. She stands in solidarity with the stories of half a dozen kids and presents herself as though she could be their classmate–that in some emotionally real sense, she is their classmate. The message of hope she offers doesn’t drop down out of the sky. It’s proclaimed from the midst of the virtual assembly of those who sit in something near despair and yet long for deliverance. She doesn’t just express compassion. She models it.

The rage and contempt she expresses for the perpetrators doesn’t dismiss the suffering they inflict as negligible. When she holds out survival and fulfillment down the road as the best revenge, she’s immersed in just how awful the experience kids go through can be. The solidarity implied in the anger of her lyrics is a cry for justice. And it throws out a lifeline.

No more than anyone else can she offer a roadmap to show the shortest way out of a land of darkness. But she says, pack what you need, put your shoes on your feet, and get ready to move out. Somewhere the fuck beyond this enslavement to daily misery, there’s a shore on the other side where it’s safe to sing and dance. Believe in it. Breathe it in. And along the way, remember that you’re in solidarity with a whole community of the oppressed, with whom you’ll live to celebrate together. Treat them with compassion, protect them when you need to with your righteous anger. In doing so you’ll experience compassion and protection yourself.

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