On (Dis)obedience and Being Good by Devon Maloney

"You must find a way to get in the way and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. To save this little piece of real estate that we call earth for generations yet unborn. You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate when you leave here to go out and seek justice, for all. You can do it, you must do it." —John Lewis at Bates College

"You must find a way to get in the way and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. To save this little piece of real estate that we call earth for generations yet unborn. You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate when you leave here to go out and seek justice, for all. You can do it, you must do it." —John Lewis at Bates College

I've been thinking a lot lately about obedience. Growing up, being "good" was a central part of my identity—more, I think, than I ever consciously realized or would have liked to admit. As an older sibling, one of the tallest (and bossiest) children in my class, an early reader and unusually proficient test-taker, I learned early on that the perks of doing what I was told suited me.

To secure the approval of my elders, I got straight A's and read more challenging books than my peers (grown-ups heaped praise on me when I picked up Carl Sagan's Contact at age 11, but didn't seem to notice when I gave up 100 pages in). I was always one of the first to raise my hand in class, to be properly mortified and course-correct when scolded. I became the friend everyone's parents trusted them to play with, because I rarely strayed or got into trouble. 

Playing by the rules meant never getting detention, never breaking a bone, receiving fewer lectures from parents and teachers. To be honest, it made me pretty holier-than-thou for a long, long time, but it rarely occurred to me, because for all I knew then, obeying authority and my elders was synonymous with doing the right thing. Nonviolent disobedience was utterly abstract, a historic milestone to be celebrated in retrospect yet irrelevant to my reality.

Over the past few years, the fact that this nebulous idea would soon be made flesh in my own life has grown sharper and sharper, but clearly, like plenty of otherwise comfortable white Americans, it finally crashed through the guardrail and rolled to a stop at my feet this fall. Finally, perhaps inevitably, but in my naïveté improbably, the question was being asked of me plainly: IF AN AUTHORITY FIGURE IS WRONG, WILL YOU DISOBEY? And naturally, it terrified me. 

It's still terrifying me, every day, every second I spend scrolling through headlines and commentary that seems to get darker by the day. Resistance is no longer simply a concept, an untested value system or an aesthetic to cultivate with pop culture tropes and talismans that set you apart from the vanilla masses. There will be real consequences, for someone, and the option has come to my door: be safe and letting them fall elsewhere, or welcome them myself. I know what I must do—and keep doing—to live with myself, but it will mean breaking every habit, every impulse, every comfortable motion I've carved deep into my person. It will mean not waiting for my elders or my leaders to tell me where to be most useful; it will mean using my money and my body as a shield, if necessary, risking pain and rejection and punishment, because not doing so would constitute losing a part of myself, the part that matters most to me.

Though I am certainly not religious, I think about this tweet pretty much constantly, and I am petrified. Will I still be able to be the person I've always strived to be when it matters? When it hurts? Well, perhaps "petrified" is the wrong word. I can still move for now, I am preparing; I just hope to whatever power that exists in the universe that, when the time comes, I won't freeze.

For Love and/or Money by Devon Maloney

Until recently, I've had the luxury in my relatively short career of saying, "Don't write for free." For a while, especially the past few years I've spent as a full-time freelance journalist, it actually transformed into a bit of a compulsion: I couldn't seem to get it up to write for love if I couldn't also do it for money.

But lately I've felt that shifting, and I think now is the time to seize that feeling before it fades and I become a completely ruthless mercenary again. I've been having ideas about things I'd like to write about that either don't really fit into the format or length of a piece I'd pitch to an editor at one of my outlets, or it seems like a topic from which I probably shouldn't seek profit. Still, especially over the past few months, these ideas — which maybe earlier on in my career I might have just written down for later and eventually deleted for lack of a paid solution — have begun seeming too important to simply forget about.

So, I think I'm gonna start blogging. It's probably not going to be a whole lot, or very often, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to use this space to talk about things people close to me ask me about, like ally resources and moral support, as well as little tips and life hacks I think even people who like me just all right might be able to benefit from. As I write this, my (very, very delayed) flight looks like it's going to be boarding soon, so I'll leave it there for now, but please feel free to let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me cover (please keep it limited to topics that don't require too much research for me — I'm still not totally comfortable with not getting paid for this). Till next time.