by Heather Shayne Blakeslee
”The thoughtfulness of “....They Struck” is that for all its stark contrast—the pleasing aesthetics of light versus dark, straight versus organic shapes, the embedded conflict of man versus nature, of good versus evil, the reference to knowledge and to the Garden of Eden—it’s still an ambiguous piece, a Rorschach test of sorts. Who is the “you”? Who is the “them”?
This is how we have come to see difference in our time, as black and white, as us-against-them, as attack-or-die. But our own conflicts are ambiguous. They are nuanced. What is their intention?
And so what is our intention? To defend? To attack? To be right? To seek the truth, even if it’s ugly?
It is necessary in this time of unrest and unraveling to have a strong sense of ourselves individually and culturally—of how and why we believe what we believe—and to be open to changing our minds: Interlopers may become neighbors once we’re talking across the fence. Enemy ideas might become more familiar, and that familiarity may create the conditions for understanding, which in turn breeds either acceptance or a strengthening of the ground we originally staked; we become stronger for the conflict, armed with new knowledge, surer footing, a deeper context for our ideas, or all three.
This self-examination is more important than ever, and it should be a precursor to our civic discourse. For me, experiencing Jackson’s snakes and skulls, her blackbirds and broken hearts, is a little like slowing down to see a car crash, only to see your own face staring out from the wreckage. Who are we, anyway?”
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