Adding a weekly feature to this blog a month ago was like assigning myself homework. I was never a great student, usually saved by my test-taking skills and overcompensation on writing assignments (imagine that). So here is my caveat – I’ll do it when I can and sometimes it will look strangely like me working out some issues.
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about anger and integrity. I’ve always been a pretty intense person, but the last couple of years have tapped into a social/cultural and political anger that has magnified because of the sheer crudity of the discourse. And I’m tired. Sometimes it’s exhausting to sustain the belief that I, as an individual, have power or can make any difference at all on the larger landscape.
For the last couple of years, I’ve slowly talked myself into doing all sorts of things I wouldn’t normally do. I’ve joined a political party, become a member of a voting rights organization, and forced myself to be more engaged with others than I want to be. I’m an introvert, but with a fierce belief that if I do nothing, I have to keep my trap shut. And that’s not happening.
The thing is, I’m still working within systems within systems. And these are the very systems that have made the wealth-pillagers our political leaders. I’m also working from a very comfortable place – I am white, have a home and health insurance and enough money to buy chocolate when I want it. The system supports this life for me.
Over the years, I’ve gotten on my high horse about voting. I still believe it is an important right, but the elections of 2000 and 2016 showed me that many of our votes don’t matter, due to an antiquated system that gives undue weight to land mass over people. The system itself is flawed. Is my participation in it akin to collusion? I don’t know.
I’ve begun to think about what it really looks like to stand for one’s beliefs, to be assertive about integrity, and what dissent means.
Welcome to Fearless Friday.
Fearless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share. These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.
When thinking about the courage it takes to dissent from prevalent culture or politics, we don’t have to look any further afield than Colin Kaepernick, whose small gesture created a cultural firestorm. LitHub ran an excerpt of Howard Bryant’s The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. Mr. Kaepernick sacrificed his athletic career and monetary gain for his belief that he could not stand for injustice.
It is likely that he had no idea what that small gesture would entail, but even as the cost became apparent, he was steadfast. As a veteran, I am grateful for someone who stood against knee-jerk patriotism – all that “thank you for your service” nothingness and magnetic bumper ribbons. If the flag and anthem mean something, make them really mean something today – like justice and equality in our society, and judicious use of military lives abroad.
Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan dissident. We have a lot of issues in America, but when it comes to courage, we often work within parameters. There are countries that make it a crime to criticize their leaders or government. Ms. Nyanzi’s favorite insult is calling someone “a pair of buttocks“, which has landed her in all sorts of trouble. The for-profit prisons in our country would fall over themselves for laws like that here, because most of us would be in prison.
I think about her choices – to be quiet in the face of injustice or to be loud and defiant and have the full weight of the government come down on her. What choice would you make?
The Fearless Fourth Estate
The most tiresome phrase used by the president et al is “fake news”. That people are so willing to throw multiple babies out with the bath water is laziness personified. Lately I’ve been listening to a New York Times series called Caliphate. Listening to Rukmini Callimachi as she interviews former ISIS fighters and goes to dangerous places in more ways than one, makes me tremendously grateful.
Despite the national derision and specifically the mortal danger, journalists and photographers risk their lives to tell us the stories we would never know otherwise. It matters and it is important. Shrieking “fake news” all the time is just dumbed-down cynicism – an indicator that critical thinking has stepped out for a smoke. And really, critical thinking is all you need to figure out what is likely factual news.
Leaving Hypotheses Behind
I keep thinking about the fact that I need to do something that is not easy or convenient for me. I go to a lot of meetings these days with a notebook. I hate meetings. I have volunteered to chair committees and research initiatives, also a rather loathsome task. So there’s that. But I keep asking myself the question: how far would I go for my beliefs? These are the days we live in – where the possibility that my answer may be tested.
TGS Writers’ Book Club Reminder: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is the May Reading Selection. Discussion forum opens on May 15th. The June Selection is a collection of poetry, Afterland by Mai Der Vang. Follow the blog for updated selections, writer-reader guidelines, and discussions.