Some say there are are “two sides to every story”. No, there’s not. I think about the holocaust and recognize that there’s only one side to that story; the side of racism and marginilaztion. The side that believes the holocaust was fundamentally wrong on all levels. Recently, I had a life-changing opportunity to witness residential school survivors’ stories and it was the same damn thing: there is only one side to that story. Any rational, humane person would agree that the idea behind the residential school system was to rape, pillage, and destroy a culture through the exploitation of its children.
What I believe instead is, there are multiple perspectives on every story. There is only one story.
Kirosawa’s Roshomon tells the same story through three different viewpoints. He never ‘tells’ us which story is the “right” one; rather, he allows our perspectives to guide us into finding the truth. In my mind, this is how storytelling should be. A story is a skeleton and readers, viewers, listeners, give that story blood and veins and arteries and a heart and brain until it becomes fully-formed. A storyteller can manipulate aspects of a story in hopes that the receiver of the story will get what they are trying to say but otherwise, a story without readers is just a framework, un-judged, un-touched, dormant.
I think about life, and ‘life stories’; I think about stories I’ve told my friends, and stories my friends have told me, and what I thought about them. I think about confiding in people that I felt may lend credability or support or a grain of understanding, where no understanding was to be had, and after that failure to find a mutual understanding, I was afraid to speak, because a lack of understanding elicits fear. I was thinking about all those things and questioning “two sides”. “Two sides” is a concept that blocks people. It is a concept that confines people into camps. There’s not “two sides” to every story. Stories aren’t that simple. And stranger still, some stories are far too simple. Someone told me today, that he believes no one (except racists) believes that racism is right, and in that regard, it’s easy to tell people it’s wrong because it’s something they already know. Racism is a single, one-panel story. It’s a story of ignorance on one hand (not a ‘side’ at all).
I think about aspects of my story – some I’d rather forget, some I still grapple with from day to day that bring me a lot of pain and anger and sorrow and questioning. What ‘side’ was I on? Was there a side at all? Was there something in me that could have created ‘two sides’? I don’t have an answer. I probably never will. Because the ‘other side’ will never give me the opportunity to do so. Those two sides sit like houseboats sitting aloof on a foggy harbour; they are perched together, but they are hazed over, lost in a thicket of cool, damp, impenetrable fog.