Friday, July 3, 2009

No One Will Know

From Black Sand Journal

Though it can't guarantee no smoking, my zippo (more precisely, its engraving) promises no smalltalk. The aphorism comprehensively delineates what makes my friendship with Stefhan both compelling and durable, and it is the brazen model I'll adopt for this post.

Two weeks worth of private thought has woven together the bad patches of my past into a blanket personal philosophy. With some apprehension, I relived the moments that exposed my weaknesses, brought me to my knees, and left me feeling pathetic and worthless. Why I plummeted to such unbearable lows, I have recently learned, is intertwined with the fabric of my personality.

What makes me who I am? Let me start with what doesn't make me who I am. My nationality isn't obvious to me. Born in Vienna to Sri Lankan parents and the product of an international school education casts me as a cultural mongrel. My mélange accent is an apt testament to this. I am ethnically Sinhalese, but I can't even speak the language. Any attempt I make at pronouncing common words or phrases is often drowned out by laughter. My household has never been a religious one. My father raised me to be rational, not God-fearing. As for sexuality, I simply like people who challenge me. Ambiguity surrounds all the conventional characteristics of my identity. Because these traits don't narrow me down to a certain 'type' of person, they are about as useful as the thumb print on my pendant in describing who I am.

From Black Sand Journal
Who I am is wholly reflected in my personal choices. I don't hide myself behind labels. I do not identify with a religion to convert bigotry and homophobia into socially acceptable traditional values. I do not identify with a nationality or ethnicity to reclassify racism as a historical dispute. I do not identify with a sexual orientation to justify my behavior or dictate my social circles. I do not derive my 'wisdom' from a pool common to a community. I am accountable for my own opinions and actions.

But being exactly who I choose to be is both liberating and lonely. When I make a mistake, it is not a habit of my culture or religion or sexuality. It is just me. As my alcoholism began to bud with the flowers this spring, there was no way I could write it off as a part of the college lifestyle or my genetics. I made the decision not to drink this summer, supplemented with a wager with my brother-in-law. Now, whenever I decline to booze because of the bet to stay sober, someone always insists that "no one will know."

I am happy to say Dick Cheney is everything I am not. My mind could never follow a logic like: "3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 by Muslim extremists. I am American, therefore I am a victim and can authorize the use of torture on untried 'enemy non-combatants' with a clear consccience because it is all in the name of national security." Before Cheney tried to vindicate his sadistic orders, he acted like he never made any. Cheney vehemently opposed the disclosure of CIA memos that incriminated him (again, supposedly in the interest of national security). He carried out his most underhanded work as Vice-President assuming he would never be held responsible for abusing human rights. No fear of a guilty verdict, because no one was supposed to be aware of the crime.

But I fear my own recognition guilt. I do not know how to escape it, but the unyielding urge to neutralize guilt often foments the moments that expose my weaknesses, bring me to my knees, et cetera. I overcompensate or I realize later that the reasons for which I felt guilty were fabricated by people who act with no remorse. If vaccinating myself against guilt by disregarding my conscience is the only way to avoid revisiting those lows, then I rather be harmed than cause harm to others. I never want to share common ground with Dick Cheney.

Returning to why I still refuse liquor when confronted with that airtight "no one will know" argument? Well, I don't consider myself "no one."

From Black Sand Journal


Mike said...

What people say 'no one will know,' what everyone else does to make it seem common, none of these things change your relation to the to your action. Great post. And I can't solve all of your question, but as to who you are, I can at least say that you are the girl I love and one of my greatest friends. Keep fighting to good fight with drinking, I can relate.

Roshana Vander Wall said...

An extremely powerful post. The people with no labels are simply dumped into the "other" category. It's a fun place to be. Revel in it. And stay strong on that no drinking thing, I'm really proud of you!