Chapter 10: Concessions

 

Ironically, there was another kid named Peter that lived in the Boatyard:  He was twenty six, just like Peter (that is, Peter that had just left and found the new apartment by Narragansett Bay).   Peter II, or ‘Pete’ as some of the woodcarvers called him, happened to be male, and he had darker skin a was a trifle scrawnier than Peter I.   His family came from the same district of Mexico as Peter I; Federal district by Cuacalco.  But as Cheryl had started to observe,  Pete never really received the verbal abuse that Peter I did.

When ‘Peter I’ left, (that is, Peter that had suffered all these accusations from the New Wavers), Cheryl decided to not show him the email the overseers had sent to everyone about their disappointment on how he had handled the reprimands.   A forced meeting had been held two weeks after his departure.  The main highlight of the meeting was about how the Boatyard was going through an accountability process around the perpetuation of an unsafe space through the culture of misogyny, racism and rape culture that currently was starting to exist there. This heavy-handed news came across as a surprise to some of the members.   As far as they had known, nobody had been raped.  There were a few incidents of inappropriate behavior by some drunk guests that had attended the recent rave, but that was it.  To neutralize this, the current committee had decided to set a new decree of rules promoting equality. It was going to be added as new rules to the ‘Jubilee lax law’, and these new set of amendments were going to be voted into the original manifesto of the community.  The other meeting minutes were about the ‘incident’ with Lionel, and how it was agreed by many in the community that it was unfortunate that Peter felt like he had to leave.

Group opinion was divided during the meeting. It didn’t help that the overseers for the last several months were made up of residents that happened to be  mostly New Wavers.   Most of the O.G.’s thought this recent drama unnecessary, but lately the New Wavers had a knack for gainsaying everyone with their confusing trail of logic during all these meetings.  Pretty soon, people would just give up and accept whatever the overseers were trying to instigate as new rules.

According to many of the new wave residents,  Peter should not be so bitter.  This whole incident with him and Rita was really his fault for not accepting the benefits of the white male privilege he had all these years.  And as for Cheryl pointing out how Pete/Peter II was getting generally different treatment than Peter in the community, the New Wavers argued that there was no favoritism being given here; Pete didn’t have as much equity as Peter because he was physically smaller.  Peter was not respecting this fact and was ignoring the privileges he had as a white male.

“I don’t get it” reasoned Cheryl. “No offense to you, Pete, but Pete’s said some things that were just as wild as Peter, but you’re not making him have to go through all these hoops to feel accepted in the community.”

“That’s because Peter has certain privileges as a white male” said Alisha.

“He’s not a while male!” Cheryl protested. “They’re both Mexican, and besides, you make Peter I sound like a bully, but the thing I don’t get is that he never attacked anyone.”

“Jake and Shemar are physically much larger than Peter” reasoned Lorraine in a last ditch effort to defend her friend who wasn’t there.  She was terrified, though, that her remark could lead to accusations of racism made by her. She knew that the New Wavers were on a witch-hunt, looking for anything that might be considered a micro-aggression.   “Hey, they sometimes joke roughly with people, and they don’t get pegged off as bullies.”

“They’re not on trial here, if you will” said Kara, who was on the side of the New Wavers.  “So let’s not go there.”

“Yeah, they also have darker skin than poor Peter there” Cheryl retaliated.  She may have been white herself, but she was starting to get frustrated at the circular line of reasoning with some of the members.

“But Peter was becoming physically intimidating” reasoned one of the New Wavers.  “He always comes across as brash.”

“But so are Jake and Shemar here, and Peter II; come on! And they’re not the ones complaining about feeling like there’s this massive inequality going on in this community!”

“And neither am I for that matter” put in Michelle.

That last argument got a few of the O.G’s thinking, and even stumped some of the new wave residents.  What the hell were they fighting about?  Up until these recent meetings, racism and sexism, and gender identity politics – and now apparently ‘size’ identity politics — had not become a major issue around the Boatyard.  And now it seemed that it was pervading its ugly head into the community.  But for all the counterpoints Cheryl had for her friend Peter, they didn’t do anything to sway the momentum of the new rules of behavior going on in the Boatyard.  The New Wavers were on a roll bombarding the O.G.’s with their dizzying logic on all the transgressions that were subtly being done in the community.  The biggest problem was that upon insisting on a detailed elaboration behind these specific sets of rules to be set up, nobody could really figure out what was considered misogyny, racism (since no one but Pete, as Cheryl pointed out) was the most recent victim of this, and finally rape culture (since thankfully, no one living in the community had been raped).  These terms were serious accusations, and as some of the O.G.’s stressed, better have some serious proof before someone was sidelined with these accusations.

“It seems to me like these terms don’t even follow the dictionary definitions of them” Martin, who was one of the ice sculpture artists, pointed out.  “They’re too flexible to what you declare are their specific meaning.  Hey; that’s how it seems to me —  so how can you accuse someone with these labels if the terms can be contoured so cavalierly?”  ‘O.G’. Kelley the metalworker agreed.

“It’s ironic” she muttered.  “According to our original mission statement, the Boatyard is a collection of artists and business ventures that a share a common vision of sustainability through art and craftsmanship and appropriate technology – only most of these new ding dongs have never even created anything artistic.”

“Yeah, coming up with some pseudo-psychology and accusing some of the original members here with these idiotic accusations that you can’t even articulate in words is not ‘art’” joked Tim.

“And it’s certainly not sustainable enough to let them make a living doing” put in Cheryl.

“Here’s what I don’t get” put in Greg who was also one of the O.G.’s. “If we’re really trying to promote equality around here, why don’t you include misandry as well?”  But that last remark made some of the attendees livid.

“There’s no reasoning with you people, is there!”  cried Valentino.  He was one of the New Wavers that had moved in six months ago.  “What don’t you dumb bastard trolls don’t understand?  Women face a giant wave of harassment and abuse every day.  We don’t need it in our place of sanctuary!  We don’t want hate here.”

“Then stop picking on fucking Peter already!” cried Cheryl. “He hasn’t even done anything!”

“Peter left because he’s a misogynist.”

“Prove it” Cheryl countered back.  A rumble of discontent emulated through much of the crowd.  This was absurd. Instead of bringing in unity, everything seemed to be dividing apart.  Where did they go wrong?

“We need Peter back again, to straighten this whole thing out” said one of the Overseers.

“Why?”

“Because if he comes back and can defend himself, then maybe he’ll prove to everyone whether these accusations are shit, or he’s completely guilty of being what they’re accusing him of being: arrogant, misogynistic, rude…”

“He wouldn’t never come back, not under these conditions” said Cheryl.  “You’d need to apologize to him.”

“But he was the one that was being offensive!” put in one of the New Wavers. “Rita, how do you feel?”

Rita looked around the room but did not reply.  It was clear she felt very uncomfortable.  “Please don’t make me decided anything.  You’re the experts.”

“He needs to apologize to some of us for being so insensitive” said Valentino.

“Bring him back somehow for us, and I swear: we can straighten this out.”

 

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