Jul 14, 2016

Calling All Benevolent Subversives...

Like probably mostly everyone else, I've been mulling over the recent violent events in the US. I noticed folks tend to lighten the language when talking about it; see how I didn't say "shootings?" At first I was annoyed by this because it feels like folks are trying to dance around the topic, or be more PC, or something.

But the more I think about it, I've decided I like the more generalized terms because the core issue isn't the shootings. 15 years ago the weapon was airplanes flown into buildings, and every time something violent happens, it's less about that specific vehicle, and more about what is behind it.

I could go super-general and pin down one or two things that are behind all acts of violence, but I wonder if that's simplifying it too much. I've come to believe we all have this part of our hearts that, for many of us in civilized society, is easy to put aside because we have been among polite company. We generally have shelter, food, some place to belong, and a sense of overall safety, where all we really worry about is the everyday sorts of risks, like car crashes, super-bacteria, and all the freak-accidents that could happen in any given moment.

What I mean is, if it all hit the fan and we were all immediately forced into a survival situation like Falling Skies or some such post-apocalyptic scenario, the rules would change, and so would our responses. I'm not so sure we are all as "civilized" as we like to portray, and when violence is committed, I think one trigger is that someone's fundamental safety is so threatened, that their fear takes over and rational thought goes out the window.

There's lots more to say about that, but I would be rambling.

So THEN, we have the responses of the masses; the 'civilized' ones who are rightfully shocked and horrified at the hurt and harm done. There are calls on all the sides. "You MUST do this and that, or you are part of the problem." "You matter/we matter/they matter." "They matter more," "No, we ALL matter more," and OPINIONS flying around all overhead like slinging arrows, all with a nugget of truth but little space to unpack and sit with them, and roll the nuggets in our hands, and let them sink in because "MY NUGGET IS BETTER THAN YOUR NUGGET!!"

I think that's the more socially-acceptable response; certainly it's better than killing people. But I think it's rooted in the same fear, and the same shock at the fundamental safety feeling threatened. There are things to be learned, but yelling them isn't conducive to learning them (they proved that in schools a while back).  I'm not talking about protests--there's a time and place, and I wonder if right now a few solid (and peaceful, please) protests wouldn't help a little. What I mean is, as I'm exploring different stories and points of view, yelling that I'm doing it wrong makes me cower and take cover, rather than reach out and learn something.

So you guys, I'm sticking my head up to tell you my little steps. The things I'm doing.

I'm a praying person, so I'm praying a lot. Praying for those hurt and harmed, and for the families who have to find a new life without loved ones. For those who feel so fundamentally threatened that they feel no other choice than to hurt and harm. For leaders trying to "fix" things, and little idea how to go about it. For those looking on and feeling powerless. For all the sinners and saints in need of a savior (of which I am one).

I'm smiling at people. Like, pretty much everyone. Like a dumb fool. I'm making a little extra effort to really see people around me, and to confront the little prejudiced fears inside myself that say "we're different so we probably wouldn't be friends" (which is nonsense--I've seen it in my very own life for years). If a smile seems like too much, I nod and look into their eyes (or slightly above their head--I have eye contact challenges) as we cross paths.

I'm taking notice. I'm looking and listening where I can, to the honest and brutal and beautiful stories of those around me. Everyone has stories to tell; a funny moment, a struggle, a tie to the events at hand.

I'm talking to my kids about it. We talk about what makes people hurt others. We talk about how to get to know people who are different from us. How we can be kind, even when we are disagreeing or even angry with someone (and of course raising them to be competent individuals who are NOT sociopaths).

You guys, little teeny steps. Like someone drops a pencil in my reach so I grab it for them. A soda bottle is rolling across the ground, so I pick it up to throw away later. A person alongside me on the running path wants to hear about my kids and talk about her grandchildren, so I run and talk with her for a mile (and I don't even have to make eye contact). Just little kindnesses. Nothing even too far outside my comfort zone. Little ways to be kind.

I think sometimes we think we need to rise up and do the powerful thing, and I believe some people are here to do just that. But I think too, maybe sometimes the most powerful thing any one person can have is the quiet strength to do whatever their thing is. To use whatever their powers are for good.

That's all I have to say today. Carry on, friends...