Apropos of being reminded of the existence of an acquaintance I’d memory-holed but apparently forgotten to unfriend, nothing makes me crazier than the idea that someone was just A PRODUCT OF THEIR TIME. Oh, he’s an old man, let him be racist and sexist and garbage and shitty to you and in front of you, he’s a product of his time.
You know who else was a product of their time?
Every single goddamn Freedom Rider.
Ida B. Wells was a product of her time.
Nellie Bly, too.
Every last one of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Dick Winters was a product of his time.
Crispus Attucks was a product of his time.
My friend Bob is 100 years old. The last time I saw him and we talked about current events, he stood up and said, “I was antifa before Hitler came to power.” Also, a product of his time.
The problem with the story that we are helpless in the face of the events that shape us is that there have always been people who can see through that crap and who have said that’s enough. That’s why we get better, Jesus, because people decide they’ve had it and want change.
When I was researching one of my books (more on that later today) I came across people who protested for open housing and what we now call marriage equality — in 1910. There have always been people who realize there’s only one rule and it’s if you have power you can use it to crush or you can use it to care for.
We just don’t usually idolize those people until they’re dead. Until WE need them, to make ourselves feel better or justify our complacency because they already won the fight we’re still in the middle of.
Everyone is a product of their time. That’s not a validation of us, it’s an indictment of the times, and it’s never, ever, ever an excuse to hurt anyone else, in word or deed. Because if people could stand up for one another when it was necessary, not just when there was a critical mass of people to protect them, then what is our excuse?