Privileged Person Pleas for Peaceful Progress

A reaction to the shooting of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and five Dallas police officers.

As a privileged middle-class white woman in America, I can’t claim to know how it feels to be a minority, or anyone other than who I am, really. But I am a human being capable of empathy and compassion for others. I believe that as members of the same species, we are likely to have more in common with each other than we have differences. We can make the choice to focus on the similarities and respect the differences. Why do we choose to stereotype and judge based on skin pigmentation, birthplace, our beliefs about what happens after death, etc.? Why do we choose to kill each other over our differences when we have so many similarities?

After all, the differences aren’t going anywhere regardless of how angry or violent we become in an effort to control the chaos. I will never fully understand the daily struggles of being anyone but myself. But I do understand a universal truth about human nature: when we are hurt or threatened, we regress to our primal emotions of aggression and fear. We all take comfort in believing that one particular group or person is responsible for our pain and if we can control them, we can control our pain.

I acknowledge that yes, there is white privilege. Yes, there is an abuse of police power. There is an abuse of all power all around the world. Men over women, rich over poor, white over not-white, humans over animals. But I believe the abuse of power stems from pain, shame, and hurt that we exert over others in an effort to rid ourselves of those feelings instead of dealing with them.

People are dying. Rage, sadness, and fear are all appropriate reactions. We have little control over our emotions and we have absolutely no control over anyone else, but we do have control of ourselves and how we respond when black men, homosexuals, children, ANYONE, is gunned down. It is never as simple as “all cops are bad” or “all _____ people are ______.” Humanity doesn’t fit neatly within the labels we create. Everyone has both good and evil inside and most of us are capable of choosing to act on the good or the evil. Or we can choose to do nothing.

I am outraged. I have been since the news of the Columbine shootings I watched as a high-school kid. The anger, the shock, & the sadness has only grown in the past 17 years. I want change and I want justice. But justice isn’t decided by emotions, that’s revenge. Death isn’t solved with more death and more violence. We are not simple animals. We have evolved to be more than killers. We are capable of holding all criminals equally accountable. So why don’t we? (I don’t know and I would really like an answer if anyone has any theories.)

I suppose it comes down to power and control. I have no power or control over anyone but myself. So I will choose to wake up every day and be kind and respectful to everyone regardless of occupation, class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I will voice my empathy and outrage when I see injustice and contact my leaders when I seek change. The solution will never be more murder. The solution will involve love, empathy, humanity, and peace.

I am so sorry to everyone who has lost a loved one to violence. I can’t begin to imagine your pain and it isn’t my intention to dishonor anyone’s grief. My hope is that we all stop and think before we react out of fear because violent outrage has caused enough suffering. But I fear there is more to come. I wish I could say or do something besides scribble in a journal. All I can say to anyone reading is that your life matters. Black lives matter. You deserve love as long as you are alive. You are valuable and in America of all places, you deserve better. You deserve to be treated as the equal you are.

 

 

Founding Fathers Free Fanatics to Fire on Fabulous Floridian Friends

A response to the tragic mass shooting that took place on June 12, 2016, at a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, Florida resulting in 49 deaths and 53 injuries.

Like most Americans my age, I grew up on Disney movies. One of my happiest childhood memories is of the family trip to Orlando, Florida to meet Mickey Mouse, sing “It’s a Small World,” and run around the Magic Kingdom. As kids, we all rooted for the poor Arab boy to find love and move into the castle. We smiled when the abused child revealed her glass slipper and escaped her oppressors. We laughed together when Robin Hood eluded the corrupt rulers and went off dancing and singing in Sherwood Forest with his best friend. We all watched poor, marginalized outcasts suffer and we all cheered when they found love and happiness.

When I grew up a bit, I realized the Disney stories I’d watched with glee as a kid didn’t accurately reflect adult reality. I mean, come on, I know Pocahontas and her tribe didn’t compromise peacefully with the British settlers and go on to live happily ever after. But even after I’d wised up a bit, I still believed that the stories demonstrated certain ideals that we as Americans all wanted to make a reality.

After all, when I was a child I heard other stories about “founding fathers” that were poor, marginalized outcasts who stubbornly refused to accept tyranny. They said “ALL.. are created equal” and ALL are “endowed with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Was that just an idealistic story too? Was it a story written only by and for privileged, white, heterosexual, Christians? Did I miss the fine print?

Year after year, we write the American story. As it unfolds, I can’t help but notice the violent contradictions between the idealistic dreams of freedom and tolerance and our horrific daily realities of persecution and hate. Orlando was a symbolic American icon of innocence, love, and joy. Now, it is yet another grim reminder that in America, we value the right to bear arms (specifically, military assault weapons capable of firing 45 rounds per minute) more than we value the safety, freedom, or lives of our fellow citizens.

What will future generations of Americans learn from our story? Would the founding fathers be proud of us for abiding by their words? Will our children be proud of us when they grow up? Or will they be shot in a classroom before they get the chance?