I recently heard a story about a kind, compassionate, creative person who came to Denver and found themselves struggling to find meaningful connections. They wondered, "What's the secret handshake? Am I not cool enough?"
This story pains me.
Building intimacy within community is important. Finding meaningful ways to bond with each other matters. When our friendship circles become impenetrable, we are failing politically, socially, and ethically. We're moldy and dull.
Julia Kristeva writes about how hospitality is one of the great cultural virtues of the United States. Why do so many smug leftists, revolutionaries, and queers fail to show the slightest degree of grace in welcoming new folks to town? Why betray one of this country's few excellent cultural practices?
It's as though people presume a new person in town is fucked up until they prove otherwise. This is backwards.
Showing up with grace and generosity, love and a willingness to connect makes life worth living, community worth having, and radical politics possible. Many radical politics fail because they are insular, cult-like, and excessively judgmental.
From Stalin to the micro-fascisms that dwell within many consensus processes, the Left is plagued by people with an unquenchable thirst for power over others. Moral superiority and better-than-thou behavior betrays any pretense at building radical community. The moral high ground is too often taken at the expense of building a vibrant, fresh radical culture driven by collectivity, consideration, and generosity.
Too often, people gossip behind each others' backs failing to bring critiques to the people they judge. Instead of creating dialogue, they create barriers.
I'd love to see people give up their secret handshakes, their cultish bonds, and their bristles and open up to both new and familiar people who want to find a home in our town. Sure, it's scary to show up for people we don't know. That's precisely what is radical about the practice.