A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the Nike protest. If you don’t remember what the protest was about, that’s great. It’s finally been phased out of the news cycle almost completely. But when I wrote my piece on it, Twitter was still relatively abuzz with images of flaming Nike sneakers as a show of opposition to the brand’s affiliation with Colin Kaepernick. The last sentence of my op-ed article read, “So if you’re thinking about giving away some women’s training tights, specifically the small, maroon Nike Pro HyperWarm pair… just do it.”
I gave a copy of The Weekly to one of my best friends, urging her to glance at the Op-Ed section. She scanned the page, her eyes glancing at my words, then put the paper away. I expected a chuckle or just some acknowledgement of how I’d mastered the art of seeming as though I was on the side of the ignorant while ridiculing them along the way.
Because after all, my article was satire.
Her eyebrows were knit in confusion, though. After reading, she was under the impression that I rejected Kaepernick’s ideologies and supported the Nike protest. Let me be clear: I have nothing but the utmost respect for Colin Kaepernick and I stand in solidarity with the black community. You won’t find the article on The Weekly’s website because if my intentions weren’t clear to a close friend, then I couldn’t imagine what it would mean to those that know me as nothing more than the
name printed below the article’s headline.
It wasn’t until Ben Lerner, author of 10:04, visited
Muhlenberg as part of the Living Writers series did I realize how it’s not the reader’s responsibility to wed a writer’s name to the writing — it’s the author’s.
While reading 10:04 for class, it was impossible to get through a page without wondering “Does this guy think he’s Hemingway?” But then I’d have to apologize to Hemingway for even suggesting there was any similarity because Lerner’s work also dealt out lengthy prose but his description teemed with imposition as opposed to observation and his sentences were joined with punctuation of all kinds rather than Hemingway’s iconic non- committal “and.”
As a student in the Living Writers class, I was required to write three questions in preparation for Ben Lerner’s visit to campus. Each one was basically a variation of “What were you thinking?”
But by the time Lerner finished his public reading, I found myself scrambling to fish out my copy of 10:04 from my backpack for him to sign. And when I went up to him, the first words out of my mouth were: I absolutely loved your book.
You see, the whole purpose of Ben Lerner’s book was to exemplify the labyrinth that is a person’s stream of consciousness. But was it my fault that I missed the point? I’m still trying to figure that out. It helped me realize, though, that writing can be read from a myriad of lenses, each layered with an experience unbeknownst to the person sitting next to you. And while it may seem like too high of a standard to expect a writer to grasp that concept and create art that can handle such forces, I’m here to say that it’s not.
After all, it’s what I hope to do with my own writing from now on.