One of my favorite anime is Mushi-shi. It’s an anthology series that follows a man named Ginko as he tries to help people afflicted by mushi: microscopic organisms that can negatively impact human life. In “The Sound of Rust,” Ginko meets a woman, Shige, suffering from a mushi that makes her a carrier for a disease that causes flesh to turn to rust. As a result, Shige has kept silent for years. She speaks to no one, and even though she isolates herself, the villagers still hold her in contempt. To keep her from infecting others, Ginko encourages her to go out into the mountains and scream, letting the mushi out into the environment where they can’t do any harm. The episode ends with a beautiful panoramic shot of the mountains, a faint and agonized scream in the background.
The last several weeks I have felt like I was screaming into the mountains. I have felt anger, rage, frustration, disappointment, and discouragement. I have wanted to hurt others if only to provide a tap for my own feelings. When I saw Trump-supporting family members quote MLK, I wanted to spit. When White acquaintances loudly proclaimed, “You can be against looting AND racism!” or “I don’t feel equipped to speak on race issues,” I have wanted to spew every vitriolic insult in their direction. I have wanted to scream, “Keep his name out of your mouth!” and “If you condemn looting before you condemn racism, then you do not understand racism!” and “You’re white! Speak on how your white privilege affects others!”
But I haven’t. I have screamed into the mountains. I have screamed in places where only those who want to hear will be able to encounter the sound. I scream in sympathetic spaces where the sound only carries so far.
I have wanted to scream into the faces of others and infect them with the anger, rage, frustration, disappointment, and discouragement that I am feeling because it seems wrong that Black people, Latinx people, Indigenous people, Asian people, and LGBTQ+ people should have to carry the weight of their pain and anger alone. It seems insidiously cruel that we don’t get to be asymptomatic carriers for the prejudice and hatred that others infect us with.
We have to feel the effects of a disease against which our mothers and fathers taught us how to take precautions.
I quarantine this anger because I am fearful of becoming patient zero. I am fearful of being labeled as a source of infection and disease. If I let out the anger and rage, the apocalypse will be personally and superficially felt, but it will have significant consequences. Things that matter to me will be lost.
I think that is the crux of the thing.
I am fearful of loss. I am worried that, if I do not hide this anger in the mountains, I will be condemned, misunderstood, or written off. I am worried about what I will suffer if I choose to direct my scream at the one who prompted it. And I believe it is insidiously selfish to worry about myself when people are dying in the streets.
When children are sprayed with tear gas and hit with rubber bullets because they chose to scream, the time for worrying about myself is over. When people are forced to use their bodies as shields, it’s time to realize that the more I try to protect my life the more I compromise the integrity of my life. Though there are complicated and agonizing decisions we all must make in order to survive, it is important to acknowledge that we survive because others chose to scream.
I am choosing to scream, and I will not scream into the mountains.
Gyasi S. Byng lives in Rochester, New York. She is PhD student at the University of Rochester where she teaches a writing course on robotics and human identity. She received her MA from Florida Atlantic University and her BA from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Her recent publications include “I Have Never Been Strong” in Open Minds Quarterly, “In the Waiting Line” in Apogee: Reclaiming the Margins, and “Beige Girl Problems” in Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks.
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