Mojo Cooties

I’ve spent my life chasing people, it’s embarrassing to admit but true. There are people I admire in the world and I seek-out their spark like a treasure map, hoping the magic will rub off on me.

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted about The Studs Terkel Award Ceremony in Chicago. I got so excited, I clicked on the link and bought tickets. I desperately wanted to be in a room, any room, where The 1619 Project was being talked about, to get my hands on it. 

Over the past two years, since October 2nd of 2017, I’ve been stumbling around in the darkness, trying to get a handle on a feeling which underscored the presidency of Barack Obama. There seemed to be two distinct filters for how his presidency was viewed. There were people like me who were knocked away, who felt lifted by his presidency, who felt inspired to reach for more, to believe in the greater goodness of people; and at the same time, there were people who lost their fucking minds to Racist Insanity.

I should back up and explain something about myself without getting too in the weeds. On October 2nd of 2017, I was violently attacked by Russian Bots, MAGA Trolls, The Alt-Right, The KKK and Neo-Nazis.

At the time it was overwhelming but now if feels like a wonderful dream. I couldn’t ask for better enemies. After the madness swept through my life like a tsunami of stupidity, I drifted numbly through the wreckage, hoping to find a better understanding of violent white people, so I made the pilgrimage to Montgomery.

I walked The Legacy Museum. I walked The National Monument For Peace And Justice. I walked Dexter Avenue, where I stumbled upon a star on the capitol steps marking the very spot where Jefferson Davies took the oath of office to lead The Confederacy, whose primary objective was to steal the potential from generations of black men and women. A stone’s throw from this tarnished star was the small church where Martin Luther King shaped an enormous voice he would bring to the National Mall, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, delivering a speech that would change the trajectory of freedom in America.

I said a lot in a few short paragraphs, so forgive me. If I don’t know someone, I treat my approach the same way I was trained to treat the commercials I wrote when I worked as a hack in advertising: like an unwelcome interruption.

Speaking of painful small-talk, when I met Nikole Hannah-Jones at The Studs Terkel Award Ceremony, she asked if I wouldn’t mind revealing my heritage.

Italian Jew,” I said. “What’s yours?” I asked.

“Black,” she said.

“That’s a much better answer,” I said.

“Yes,” she smiled at me and I could tell the conversation was over before it started.

She didn’t want to talk to me. I could feel my ears starting to burn and so I began looking for the quickest way to politely excuse myself from the conversation.

But this is where I get lucky, this is where I always get lucky, and it pains me because it has nothing to do with Mojo Cooties, which is the naive child in me wishing for the magic of Nikole Hannah-Jones to rub off on me.

It didn’t.

It never does.

But I can promise you this: if you chase the spark of brilliance, you will stumble upon something better, far better than any spot marked X on the treasure map. Nikole Hannah-Jones happened to be with a friend who didn’t mind talking to me. A few minutes later, as I cozied up to the bar, needing a drink to chase away the humiliation of an uncomfortable conversation, her friend approached me.

She offered me a copy of The 1619 Project.

6 thoughts on “Mojo Cooties”

  1. I am a White Nationalist and I have been in the movement for the better part of 30 years. But I have had enough. I owe you an apology. I was part of The Troll Farm that was used to target you in October of 2017. I also freelance for Yelp, as do many of my associates in case you were wondering why there was so much “activity.” Activity is the technical term for targeted humiliation.

    I do not know how to undo all of the damage that I have done. But I thought you should know your voice is revered on White Nationalist Forum Boards. We still talk about how you took all of our calls in 2017. I am sure I was one of many people who called to scream at you but you listened to everything I had to say and you never hung up on me. It really stayed with me. I am not giving you the credit for my change of heart but I have never had anyone hear me out like that before.

    I am sorry for what I have done but I do not know how to leave the movement. I know I should probably turn myself in but I do not even know where I would start. I have been reading your writing. I certainly do not always agree with you but you seem like the kind of person who might be capable of creating a place where those of us who are ready to take responsibility for our actions can reach out to you for a productive way to begin the slow but necessary process of taking responsibility.

    I am sorry for my actions, Greg. You were treated horribly and it was inexcusable.

    1. Thank you, Jonathan Ward. There are 2 writers who have been helping me grapple with the madness: Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m in the middle of “The Water Dancer.” It’s astonishing! The world is fiction but it’s the closet thing to the truth I have ever felt. As I talked about above, I got very lucky this week when I met Nikole Hannah-Jones. She is a beautiful woman, a beautiful writer and one of the most important thinkers who’s shaking up the world in 2019. I felt blessed to have walked into the room where she was being honored. If their work isn’t enough, there’s “Mother Knight” by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s like putting floaties on my arms before sinking into the darkness.

      Speaking of the darkness we’re trying to step out of, thank you for putting your fingers on the keyboard, thank you for choosing kindness. Please come back soon to share your journey into the light. Til then…be well…

    2. Looks like Greg is writing his own comments again. Fake News Greg on some Jussie Smollett shit.

      PS – I’m a sad person (AKA Dick Slider). I use mean comments as a mask for the anger I feel about how no one notices me, how small I feel in the world, how all of the things I’ve been handed are secretly haunting me, how unlike you I don’t have the brass to try & fail & try & fail & try to pull a sliver of laughter out of madness. I’m sorry, Greg. I keep commenting because I wish I had the will to do something more with my life.

      1. You know what’s heartening about Jussie Smollett, unlike Trayvon Martin, unlike Hadiya Pendleton, unlike Joaquin Oliver, no one is burying a child.

        Thanks for taking the time to read my blog all the way down to the comments. Impressive!

        As a friendly warning, I have to say your mean-spirited comments say more about you than they do about me; but having said that, I’d ask you not to be so hard on yourself. Few people have my stamina, my willfulness, my ability to generate laughter as a coping mechanism for those who carry around a child’s openness to have their heart broken all the way through their lives. Dare to care, it’s sexy!

        Be well…

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