I am Mormon. That statement appears to be declared in active voice, but most folks understand it as an identity built on its denials. Mormons don’t engage in extramarital sex of any kind, up to and including self exploration and pleasure. Don’t drink, don’t smoke (what do we do?) No coffee, no tea. No swears.
Vegans don’t consume animal products. Pacifists don’t resort to violence to resolve conflict. Refusal isn’t always about identity. Sovereign nations, or environmentally minded folks, boycott. Prisoners, those with very few, options go on hunger strikes to seek advocacy, humane treatment, or justice.
Sometimes refusal is indulgent. I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.
Refusal wields power, or at least it can. Or roust reprisal. Bartleby the scrivener confounded everyone around him simply by uttering, “I prefer not.”
I asked these artists to respond to the prompt. I was not rebuffed. But the world, and perhaps eternity, was.
Robert Burnier, Alex Chitty, Diego Leclery, Mican Morgan, Alison Ruttan, Chris Smith, Jenn Smith