Thursday, November 1, 2018

I don't have the right words but these things need to be said

I've seen several posts on social media lamenting the loss of friendships over politics and requesting that people not discuss divisive or controversial political topics online. I think most of these people mean well. They just want their Facebook feed to be all puppies and rainbows. And I get it. Puppies and rainbows are awesome. But life is not all puppies and rainbows. Life is also sadness and struggle and heartbreak and rage-inducing injustices. I understand the impulse to feel like can't we all just get along? However, it's not that simple, especially when some groups of people are trying to deny basic human rights to other groups of people. Expecting the oppressed to just "get along" with their oppressors is cruel and unfair. Personally, I will not stop talking about politics, online or otherwise. I'm not going to be a dick about it (I mean, not intentionally. I'm imperfect, I make mistakes). But I have strong opinions and I'm going to assert them. I will strive to be respectful and compassionate but I will not be silent. Being silent in the face of injustice would make me complicit in perpetuating the injustice.

When people say they don't want to discuss controversial or divisive issues, what they really mean is that doing so makes them uncomfortable. Most people have a very low tolerance for discomfort and especially for witnessing the pain and suffering of others. This doesn't make them bad people. It's a natural impulse to want to avoid discomfort. But learning how to sit with and tolerate uncomfortable feelings is one of the best life skills you can develop. It is especially important when it comes to social justice issues that we are able to have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Because that's how change happens. Everything is divisive and controversial until it isn't. The reason slavery was abolished and women got the right to vote and gay marriage was legalized is because of all the people who refused to remain silent. It is important work and it must be continued.

My life is very privileged and with great privilege comes great responsibility. Having privilege doesn't mean that your life isn't hard. Everyone's life is hard in some ways. Having privilege means that your hardships aren't compounded by prejudice against your race/gender/sexual orientation/physical disabilities/body size. (Please read more about this if I'm not explaining it well here - just google "what is white privilege/able-bodied privilege/thin privilege/heterosexual privilege/etc to find many examples). I have so much privilege and I need to use it to amplify the voices and the stories of marginalized people. Because everyone deserves to be treated with respect, to be treated as a PERSON. Everyone deserves basic human rights. I cannot be the person I want to be in the world if I remain silent. If being outspoken means that some people no longer want to be friends with me, I can accept that. Social justice is more important to me than being liked. Besides, I believe in true friendships, the kind that are unconditional. If your friendship is conditional upon me always agreeing with you or never saying anything "controversial," if I have to make myself smaller in any way in order for you to like me, I cannot agree to that. I won't be anything less than everything that I am. I would not want anyone else to be either.

I understand that we're all at different places in our journeys and that's ok. I'm at a place where I can see so much pain and suffering in the world and I am choosing to bear witness to it rather than avoid it. I want to hear your stories and your opinions and your experiences of being a person in the world. I want to talk about the injustices and the pain and the struggle and the sorrows, not just the puppies and the rainbows. Because that's the whole point of everything - to be here with each other, for each other, to make the world better for each other. And to do that we have to listen and we have to confront the uncomfortable, unfair realities of life. We have to acknowledge the systemic injustices in our society and work together to rectify them.

I'm not the most articulate person. I don't know all the things, I don't have the answers. I don't have the right words, but these things need to be said. I don't think my words are going to change anyone's mind. I can only change myself. So I will continue to change myself. I will keep listening and learning and feeling the uncomfortable feelings and challenging myself to do better and be better. I hope you will join me. If you have puppies, please come on in. If you have anger and despair and pain, please come on in. I want to sit with you on the sunshine and rainbow days and on the WTF What Fresh Hell Is This?! days. I want to sit with you on all the days.

Lyric of the moment: "Sick of leaving things half done, leaving things half said. Oh I am, I am trying the best that I can. I am, I am trying..." ~Vance Joy "Best That I Can"