Cockroaches, honestly, scare the shit out of me. I am seriously afraid that one may very well cause my death someday. I will be minding my business and walk into a bathroom, turn on the light and there will be one right before me on the wall and, startled by my sudden entrance and lightening of the room, will alight and land squarely on my person or, god forbid, my face or skin, and I will beat myself senseless trying to kill it, or have a heart attack right there in the toilet.
It is, seriously, one of my biggest fears. So much so that every time I enter a room, especially in this old ass house I presently reside in (and by old I mean by Japanese standards which means about 20 or 30 years…the brownstone I lived in back in NY was over a hundred) I enter cautiously with that horrific scenario in the back if not the front of my mind.It’s an irrational fear. That bug can do me no harm. I’m not ignorant of that fact, either. I KNOW it cannot harm me, only cause me to do harm to myself, and yet and still I am terrified.
Best case scenario: This is how many people (including Japanese) feel about black people. A fear and /or hatred that they have no conscious control of…like a rabid dog.
Worst case scenario: The belief that dark is truly evil and light is ultimately good and so the closer one is to white the better one’s humanity and the closer one is to black the more inclined to evil one is, justifying and rationalizing the fear and or hatred.
Yes, it’s beyond ridiculous…
Even among black people this phenomenon of skin color/tone connoting goodness or wickedness exists. Due to some very serious psychological damage (beginning during slavery days no doubt and persisting even to this day) even some black people unconsciously gravitate towards lighter skinned black people (or white people)…and consider darker skinned black folks to be…let’s just say less. Less something. Less cultured, less civilized, less educated…less trustworthy.
And definitely more fearful.
Maybe it’s just some aspect of human psychology, dating back to primitive man, that associates black with night, and night with fright and danger…maybe it’s just that simple.
I don’t know. But it persists like a motherfucker, and it’s maddening. Maddening to see people unable to do the one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and compels us to do things that animals would never do to each other. We have this intelligence, and this will power, and this culture and memory and sense of history and historical significance, and we still, many of us, choose to be afraid.
Sometimes when I see a cockroach, I stop myself, and I take a deep breath, and I catch a whiff of the fear-sweat spewing from my pores…and I can hear Frank Herbert’s Litany against Fear in my head…Fear is the mind killer… And then I see those long antennae and those many hairy legs, and the wings that want to spread, and the intelligent way it appears to be scanning the room for danger or food…yes, I imbue it with an intelligence that makes it even more fearful…I create the monster with the power of my mind. I create my nemesis. Meanwhile Herbert is still pissing in my ear, pleading, trying to reach me…I will permit it to pass over me and through me…But, I block it out again because, well, because I hate that cockroach now! I hate it because it has made me so goddamn afraid that I stink with fear funk. I hate it because it has exposed my weakness as a human being. I want to kill it! I feel a blood lust! Does it matter if the blood is red or green or white? No! I want to overcome my fear just enough to utterly destroy it and in doing so I will feel some sense of accomplishment…I will convince myself afterwards that I have overcome my fear of it because instead of taking flight from something that bore me no ill will or in any way could do me harm, I killed it.
And sometimes when I see the Japanese fear of me it reminds me of my fear of the cockroach…in all of it’s irrationality and insanity. And I think of what I did to that roach once I was able to muster up the courage to do so.
I wonder if they are doing the same thing…creating monsters in their minds. Creating a nemesis to challenge them so that they can feel courageous.
And maybe they’ve made me out as that monster. Now that scares me.