Responding to terrible things

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 7:20 PM | comments: 0

Another senseless tragedy happened yesterday, on the heels of another one that happened a couple of weeks ago. I don't know that I can add much to that discussion, and truthfully I don't even know what to do with it. Whenever I think about it I kind of mentally retreat and start thinking about the song "Rivers of Mercy," which describes where I've been a lot in the last few years.

So what do you do in response to something as horrible as children dying in a hail of gunfire? There's obviously no rationalizing it. You don't need to have kids to feel the seriousness and sickness of it, and wonder why this is the only country where this sort of thing happens, and we don't do anything about it. You wonder how the same people who want to force a woman to give birth, saying they're so committed to life, do nothing to limit the death of humans already born. The people who think that gun safety laws get in the way of "law abiding citizens" want to restrict the voting rights of, yes, law abiding citizens. And the worst conclusion of all is that you can only conclude that this minority of people are prescribing a society for a majority, and that implies that democracy itself doesn't work. It's all pretty fucking dark.

A fair amount of therapy in recent years has been devoted to looking for purpose and trying to reconcile my impact (or lack thereof) in the world. It's such a big subject that I wouldn't know where to start. I understand myself that it's likely I've had greater, more important impact as a volleyball coach than I'll ever have advocating for equality and social justice. In fact, what kind of hubris does it take to believe you can influence the change we need? There's a fine line between hubris and courage. Much of the time, that leaves me in a place where I make donations to my favorite acronym organizations and hope that it helps.

Then you settle into that mode of, well, it's mostly my birth lottery that I don't have to deeply worry about things if I don't want to, because they don't deeply affect me. But you've got these idiots who are like, "I shouldn't feel bad for being a heterosexual, white, male Christian!" Well no shit, no one is asking you to do that, they just want you to exercise a little basic fucking human respect and stand up against hate, discrimination and marginalization of people not like you. That's not really a heavy lift. Not being an asshole to others is not a heavy lift.

And don't even get me started with social media and what that does. Some people get deep into performative advocacy, where you say something weighty and get likes and you're "doing something." Worse yet, there are people on the other side of that equation who will judge you if you're not at least doing that performative advocacy. These "woke monsters" want nothing more to call you out. I hate that word, "woke," since it has been co-opted by fascists to imply that exercising human empathy is somehow a moral shortcoming, but I'm talking about the thing that Obama said a few years ago, where people mistake judging others as agency of change. I've certainly been guilty of it.

I also don't think we should give other people shit for disengaging, at least temporarily. Yeah, that's a privilege to, but looking out for your mental health and being a part of solutions are not mutually exclusive things. That binary thinking is the reason things are such a shit show in the first place.

Stream of consciousness here, I know. It's all I can do to reconcile the news, which I've avoided quite a bit.


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