Tonight, we went to the Manhattan Theatre Club to see The Niceties, a play about a young liberal black student and her well respected liberal white professor at an elite East Coast university. Although they both on the surface seem as though they stand for the same values, their conversations quickly reveal that their thoughts on race and reputation do not match and actually clash quite heavily.
I spent most of the play going back and forth regarding who I agreed with. When it came to understanding race at a deeper level and not glorifying politicians like Washington and Jefferson, especially given they were slave owners and did not really want “rights” for anyone other than property-owning white men, I agreed with the black student. When it came to the oversensitivity of today’s generation and the constant need for “trigger warnings” and incessantly requiring people to be politically correct in everything they say, I agreed with the white professor. But it was like a tennis match, constantly watching the ball go back and forth and not being sure where we would land. It reminded me of the Bernie supporters vs. the Hillary supporters in the 2016 election, or the third-party voters vs. the Hillary supporters.
I really liked the author’s note that came with the play’s Playbill, as it very succinctly summed up the goal of the play, as well as the general sentiments in today’s heated political climate which stare us in the face, which said:
“I’ve always been fascinated when good people fight.
Conflicts between good and evil can be fun fodder for action films. But I’m more intrigued by the times when smart, well-meaning people, with great values and the best intention, fundamentally can’t agree on the right way to behave.
Kindness or honesty? Idealism or caution? Forgiveness or punishment?
We all have natural instincts in one direction or another. We can all justify our instincts with logic, examples, and appeals. But do we really know for certain that our beliefs about the world, and about how we ought to behave in it, are right? And how should we respond to someone who tells us when we’re wrong?”
I always feel conflicted. I felt angry when I had friends who didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election. I got pissed at my friend who voted for Jill Stein, a third-party candidate. I get infuriated when I still hear people today say that Bernie Sanders should run again in 2020 because this time, “he’d definitely win.” Okay, if you think that, you seriously did NOT understand 2016 at all. None of us really do, but you’re even further from comprehension of that. For those on the “right” side of progress, we don’t agree; the Democratic Party has no unity, no real unifying message. That’s one of many reasons things fell apart in 2016. We’re all trying to be good, but it’s not clear who is the “worst” of the “good” and the “best” of the “good.”