(The quote in my title banner is from the song Willing to Fight, by Ani DiFranco, and thus the title of this post is taken from her song, too. Look it up. It is amazing and inspiring. Thank you.)
I am at a crossroads in my life. I either continue living the way I have been, or I actively start fighting for the change I think we need and that I want to see.
A friend of mine asked me recently how have the political events of the last 3.5 years affected me? How have they affected my ability to live my life on a daily basis? And the fact of the matter is, my day-to-day life personally has not been affected and has not changed. If I turned off the tv and never read a newspaper or magazine, and never read anything political on social media, my life would not have been changed at all. But I have turned on the tv and have read newspapers and I have read political posts on social media, so I am aware of how profoundly my country and my government are changing. I am aware of kids in cages and asylum seekers being treated like criminals and being deported back to their countries of origin to be murdered. I am aware of the rapidly disintegrating foundation of our democracy. I am aware of the propaganda being spread by right wing media and the President and the GOP about Liberals, and I am aware of the growing divide among our citizenry and our very own families. And because I have only just begun to scratch the surface of the work that is necessary for privileged white folk like me to do, I am aware that there are huge swaths of our citizens for whom democracy has never worked and for whom democracy was never meant to work. And yet, as my friend shone a light on, my day-to-day life has not been affected. I still get up everyday and get on the train and go to work and come home to my husband and my dogs, and we eat dinner, and we watch tv and talk, and we go to bed, and get up the next day and start all over again.
So I am at a crossroads. Do I continue living my comfortable, daily routine? Do I ignore my privilege and just throw up my hands and say, “What can I really do about it anyway? I’ll vote in November and hope for the best and see what happens.” Or maybe, “I’ll donate to my favorite candidate or some organizations when I can. ” Or maybe, “I’ll share a few more articles on Facebook about Elizabeth Warren or some interesting articles highlighting black history for Black History Month.”
Actually, I can and should do all of those things. But is that enough? Is that enough to stop the demonizing of Liberals? Is that enough to stop the GOP from turning our country into an oligarchy? Is that enough to make sure that we actually have a safe and fair election and that the results will be honored if Trump doesn’t win? Is that enough to change what’s happening at our southern border? Is that enough to tear down the steel beams of white supremacy that prop up every foundation of every system in our nation?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it probably isn’t. I am going to have to move way outside of my comfort zone. I am going to have to learn to push myself in ways I have not done so before. I am going to have to not just leave my comfort zone, but learn to be less comfortable. I may not be rich or wildly successful, but I have a lot of privilege to ride on to help affect change, and more than enough privilege to abdicate some in order for other folks to gain more.
And while my day-to-day life may not have changed (outside of being outraged daily), refugees seeking asylum lives’ have changed drastically. And their children who have been taken from them and locked away as criminals, some left to die; others adopted out to families throughout the US, never to be reunited with their parents and families - their lives have been irreparably harmed and changed so fundamentally that they will never be the children they were when they arrived. Undocumented people’s lives have changed dramatically (and are potentially about to get much worse.) Trans people’s lives have changed. And while some cheer higher employment rates and a soaring stock market and boast of 401K increases that they couldn’t have dreamed of, I ask you, is it worth it? Is your comfort you feel now worth the pain and suffering of others? Is there so much in your account that you can just look at what’s happening on the boarder and justify it by saying, “Well they are just criminals and should have come here legally”, even though seeking asylum is, in fact, legal? Is my comfort worth doing little to nothing to change the direction this president, his cabinet and his party are taking us? Should I just resign myself to the philosophy that “no one’s going to look out for me but myself, so I’ve got to look out for #1?”
No, my life hasn’t changed, but if history has taught us nothing, it has taught us that if we don’t speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for us when we need them to.
But more importantly, even if no one ever “comes for me”... even if I’m able to continue to live my comfortable life and even strive to gain even more money and more comfort, if it comes at the expense of others being explicitly and implicitly denied access to and the rights to that same comfort, can I ever really be comfortable? Can I ever enjoy that comfort? Should I enjoy that comfort?
The answer for me is an emphatic no. I no longer wish to be comfortable and to just “live my life” while I know others are suffering because of my comfort. I don’t know what this looks like exactly... I don’t know if I can even imagine what it could or should look like. I just know I have to walk away from what I have known.
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.