I’m angry, and it’s not just because recent events have exposed my complacency with an imbalanced system because I was under the impression that “things will get better.”
I mean, that makes me angry. It makes me angry to have been so wrong. It means I was believing lies and avoiding truths.
There was a time when I was actively avoiding truths. I wasn’t pretending they didn’t exist, I was just putting on the blinders so I wouldn’t have to see them. I knew they were there.
Like those videos with the animals and the Sarah McLachlan song. I couldn’t watch them without crying and feeling completely heartbroken. So I’d mute the TV, go off to get a drink, or change the channel. I knew that my not watching wasn’t automatically saving all those animals from hardships. I knew that shit was still happening. All I was doing was trying to avoid the additional hardship of feeling helpless to do anything about it (other than send money).
Last year, I started doing a little more. It was either the #BlackLivesMatter movement or the Orlando Pulse shooting that woke me up a little and helped me realize that my blinders were a disservice to my convictions and the causes I believe in. They were making me complacent, and in some ways complicit.
Now, I’m no big social media star. My voice doesn’t have much range in the grand scheme of things, but it has some range.
So I started writing. It’s what I can do. Possibly not the very least, but pretty close to down there.
Then the Flaming Yam* became our national main course. I got really angry because it was pretty much proof that the reality I thought I existed in – the “things will get better” reality – was way off base.
I was so wrong. So wrong.
I tore off the blinders. I started to see, not just where the injustices play out in the media and in the lives of people I’ve never met, but even in my own family and in my own (in)actions.
I struggled hard last week – coming off the high of that incredible show of civil discourse in the March that exponentially eclipsed Captain Tangerine’s inauguration – I struggled with the heavy levels of criticism that came, not from those who oppose everything we stand for, but from within the community of my allies.
It was that feeling again. That uncomfortable feeling, but without the Sarah McLachlan song as a signal it was coming. Why? Because, in a way, they were right.
In every way, they were right.
Now, in reality – in my reality – I’d done as much for the BLM and LGBTQ causes as I did for the Women’s March.
I blogged about them. Again, pretty close to the least I could do. I didn’t show up in person for any of them, to put my physical whiteness on the line for the causes I believe in. I just blogged, under my pseudonym from the safety of my suburban home.
The difference, though, was my intention. If I hadn’t had to work that day, I had planned to go to the Women’s March in Los Angeles.
I had the intention of doing more.
So the criticism, while difficult to face – was right on the money.
For those who follow me on twitter, or who intersect with me on Facebook, you’ve likely seen a change. I’m a little more vocal now and there are a lot more political messages coming out along with the cute pictures of cats doing funny things.
But, I’m also done doing the very least I can do. Earlier this week, I rolled my window down and thanked a homeless man who rushed needlessly to move some things out of the way when I was driving past him. Before? I might have waved and smiled. I took a moment and viewed him as a person and not an extra in the story of my life. (That’s the writer in me that believes every piece of dialogue in a well-written story serves to inform the plot or move it forward, rather than the simple gesture of a hand wave that would have been forgotten by the next scene.)
I’ve RSVP’d and am planning to attend local marches and protests being organized to protest on behalf of a number of causes that don’t personally affect me. I am not black. I have great health insurance. I’m not at great risk of having an unwanted pregnancy. I have the right to marry because I’d choose someone that our oppressors wouldn’t find objectionable (polyamory notwithstanding). I’m pretty darned heterosexual, and as a widow, I’m given a bit more of a free pass for being an unmarried woman without children in this society.
I’ve gotten involved with my local Indivisible chapter and am planning to take a day off from work next week to join a group or citizens in a local visit to my republican representative in congress – a man who won by less than 2% of the vote in my district.
I’m reading a lot more, I’m fact checking a lot more, and I’m allowing myself exposure voices I care about who might not have the nicest things to say about me based on the way that I look.
As a fellow blogger wrote, “they don’t know what’s in my heart.” They don’t know that I identify culturally more along the lines of Latino than Caucasian. They don’t know my first language was Spanish and my parents were immigrants from Latin America, and great grandparents were from Syria and Egypt. They don’t know this by the way I look.
But for how long have they endured living a life where they are under constant scrutiny and prejudice for the way that they look? For how long have I benefited socially from the paleness of my skin and the blue of my eyes?
Maybe it’s time I walk a little in those ill-fitting shoes.
I’m “leaning in” to my discomfort.
I want to thank the people in my life who listened to me as struggled with this over the past week. I didn’t come to this conclusion right away. I had to do some soul searching and a whole lot of listening before I figured out why their truth was so hurtful, even though I knew it was true.
But mostly, I want to thank this woman for posting this video on facebook. This is the one that helped me come to terms with my discomfort. I hope you’ll watch it. I hope you’ll listen.
And I hope you’ll join me in doing a whole lot more than the very least we can do.
(Flaming Yam* taken from a comment someone left on a blog. I can’t take credit for it, but holy shit it gave me a good laugh this morning.)