I am four months behind in returning to my writing. Four months of saying, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll write.” Four months of feeling as if the inspiration I need to put words into sentences was just beyond my reach. I have felt frustrated, argumentative, guilty, lazy and a bit fraudulent. Those are exhausting feelings. Those feelings all stem from fear.
Lately I have feared that I have nothing to say; nothing new anyway. Lines of thinking that feel even the slightest bit inventive have quickly spiraled into monstrous ‘projects’ that I couldn't fathom taking on. I fear I won’t be able to render a valuable likeness of my thoughts through my writing.
The temptation to bow my head into the wind and just let things blow past me has been strong. But I know through experience that I am not satisfied to be standing still; that for me, moving forward in fear is better than sedating myself to the world. So today, with fear, I write.
Singer Erykah Badu is known for an eccentric approach to her art and her latest video is a continuation on her favored themes of social injustice, self-worth, and a person’s right to free thought. Badu filmed her video for Window Seat near Dealy Plaza, the location of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Using a guerrilla style shoot, Badu walks through the populated area removing articles of her clothing every few steps until she is completely nude save for her headscarf.
The singer and her crew opted to acquire no permit for the shoot which meant the popular tourist location was filled with onlookers unaware that the scene unfolding before them was part of a music video. Perhaps the most dramatic moment occurs when Badu is “shot” by an unseen gunman; her head whipping backwards as she falls to the ground. The words ‘groupthink’ spill from her wound in liquid blue letters.
Groupthink is a term used to describe a pattern of thought exhibited by individuals within a group in order to reduce conflict without putting into practice their own beliefs; a manner of thinking in which going with the flow is rewarded. Badu argues that this mentality is the root of the “assassination of character” and her video was an attempt to align this idea with the physical assassination of JFK; a man historically considered to have been murdered for his unconcealed beliefs.
The video caused an outcry from a small number of people present the day of the shoot and from many more after its release a few weeks ago,ultimately resulting in a nominal fine for disorderly conduct. Some claimed that the theme is disrespectful to the memory of our fallen President. Others are offended by her public nudity. Some people feel she was simply looking for a sensational way to make album sales. Then there are those who feel Badu has done nothing wrong and in fact has rather eloquently addressed a growing threat to individualism.
What do I think? I think Badu was looking to boost album sales. I think she was looking to make a statement on an issue that means something to her. I think that people who are claiming ‘damages’ from the brief experience and confusion of having a nude woman on the streets of Dallas really should find better things to put their energy into. I think the people claiming that they, or their children, were needlessly exposed to a scene of a violent nature should consider the larger picture: we are thrust into most every experience without the knowledge necessary to be able to assimilate the conflicts and lessons which lie therein. But that process, that journey, from initial experience toward understanding and growth is the thing we can all benefit from; even when that process is occasionally violent.
I think Erykah Badu proceeded with fear and because of that, I have the ability to grow. And for today, I have the ability to write.