I am hoping to write more in the coming weeks. I encourage you to do the same. It can be quite cathartic. We could all use a little catharsis these days.
A few weeks ago I was walking through the grocery store. Shopping has always been a weird experience for me. There are few situations in life more revealing of a person’s character than the store. There is nowhere to hide at the store. We can see what you are buying, we can see you lose patience with your children, we can see you fight with your significant other. I usually wear headphones when I am shopping, both because I love music and because I don’t want to hear what is going on around me. This avoidance of reality often causes me to daydream. I daydream a lot, a product of never being able to turn my brain off I suppose. More on shopping in a second.
My chosen profession has created a lot of anger inside of me. Anger at what I have seen, anger at the impotence I feel when I am unable to help effectively or solve the problems I see everyday. Anger that comes from seeing so much innocent suffering. Watching events unfold over the last year has caused a great deal of anger in me as well. Much of this anger comes from the same place as my professional anger; I am unable to help, to ease the pain of those being persecuted. I so often feel as if I am screaming into an abyss, a void that I cannot penetrate. Some might say (notably my saint of a wife who puts up with this) that I feel too much, I empathize too much, I internalize too much.
Circling back to my shopping analogy…daydreaming plus anger often makes for strange bedfellows. I envision myself confronting abusive parents, men being abusive towards women, etc. Lately, these daydreams have focused on the hate that is being spewed all around us towards women, people of color, Muslims, Jews, people who identify as LGBTQ…creating scenarios in my mind that see these situations play out. When the unreality fades, I find myself wondering what I am capable of.
This daydreaming has consistently brought me back to the same question: What would I be willing to do? As a teenager I was fascinated by the 60’s. The music, the protest, the idealism. I naively thought that it would have been awesome to have lived during the 60’s. My high school friends could probably tell you that I often lamented that I had been born in the wrong decade. This naivety conveniently forgot the draft, the unrest and the likelihood that I would have just been another white kid who never got involved.
I turn 36 on Saturday and find myself at the doorstep of what my teenage self always wanted. Political and social unrest, the prospect of a government that could threaten the very ideals I hold so dear. At 36 I am not excited, I am terrified. I am terrified for myself, my wife, my children, my friends, my family. But at the same time, I am a white male, my wife is white, my children are white males, my family is white…we could all hunker down in our whiteness and probably be fine. We blend in, we are the color of the people in power, we can converse in the religion of the powerful. So while it is human to be terrified for my own, I am that much more terrified for my friends who are not white, not christian, who cannot defend themselves for whatever reason. I know what I would be willing to do for my family. The real question is what would I be willing to do for a complete stranger?
Am I willing to teach my children what is right and empower them to teach others?
Am I willing to speak up when racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and islamophobic things are said?
Am I willing to speak up both to people I know and people I don’t?
Am I willing to take time out of my life to call congressmen and women as many times as is necessary?
Am I willing to use whatever monetary resources I can to aid those entities that may be crucial to the fight?
Am I willing to use my whiteness and my privilege as a political weapon for those who do not have that privilege?
Am I willing to take to the streets if need be to protest what is happening?
Am I willing to put myself between someone who is being physically threatened and the person doing the threatening?
Am I willing to register as a Muslim?
Am I willing to RESIST?
Am I willing to FIGHT?
I wish that I did not have to answer the majority of those questions. But I will, we all will. As Thomas Paine said, albeit in a different context, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are all about to be tried and we all must be willing to delve into the fire.
It is time to mobilize.
It is time to organize.
It is time to crystalize our fear into power.
Use that power to speak.
Use that power to act.
Use that power to resist.
It is time to be the people of the anti-government.
It is time to stand up and say this is not the America we want.
What are you willing to do?