Well here we are. It’s Thanksgiving eve and I don’t know about you but I am snug in my fortress of solitude – constructed entirely of mashed potatoes, gluten-free stuffing and homemade donut holes smothered with dairy free glaze. The kitchen is piled with dishes and the pumpkin pie (also GF and dairy free) is in the oven. My children are snuggled up watching a movie. My husband is napping. I’m wearing sweat pants. Everything is perfect in this moment.
The last few days have been rough. It’s been one story after another about things that are wrong in the world, in our communities, our systems and institutions. The whole idea of this blog and my show is to shed light on difficult subjects – to talk about the fact that life is hard and we don’t always (or ever) really know what we’re doing – and in the case of this week – we don’t always understand what is going on around us. It’s easy to look at other people’s struggles and inflate an invisible bubble separating ourselves from “them”. We can do that. Lots of people live full and happy lives never looking past the end of their nose.
I just think maybe we shouldn’t do that – not anymore. Yes, it is confusing trying to understand why Universities let sexual violence be swept under the rug for the sake of their reputations. It is overwhelming trying to understand how centuries of racial inequality and systemic violence leads people to burn down their own communities. I am disheartened by the inequities in our systems and the blindness of people to acknowledge them. I am sad that black mothers are losing sons, and that those sons are growing up with assumption of guilt before they even commit a crime. And conversely, that many of those sons feel so little hope for their futures that crime seems like their only option. I am frustrated by people who take advantage of positions of power and I am heartbroken that young women are being brutalized and subsequently shamed. I’m also trying to figure out where I fit into this puzzle – how my children will be in the world when they are growing up middle class white kids in the suburbs. Will my boys feel hated for being privileged white guys? Will my daughter be safe when she goes to college? Will they be compassionate and see the world with all of its complexities and be brave enough to face them? Will they understand that – even though we are far from wealthy – our Gluten Free, Dairy Free life represents a privilege that most people in the world do not know? This world can be a scary, sad, confusing and unfair. It’s no less those things when we don’t choose to look at them.
I had a conversation with my dad yesterday – not about anything important just talking about life and the kids. We were discussing the children’s activities and I said my daughter might be signing up for a Comedy Sportz class coming up. He, of course, didn’t know what that was but when I explained it he was really excited about her doing it.
“Does she want to do it?” he asked, knowing her to be a pretty reserved kid.
“Yes” I said “She thinks it’s awesome. It definitely scares her but she doesn’t get to opt out of something because it scares her.” I told him.
“She’s her mother’s daughter” my dad replied “You always do the scary things.”
I don’t think he realized what an amazing thing he said just then.
The Fergusons and the UVa’s – the murder, rape, racism, classism, gay bashing, intolerance, political polarization – are way more serious than choosing to take an improv comedy class – I do realize that. But maybe by creating a culture where being afraid is not an excuse to back away from something we will instill in our kids that they have the power to do the hard work, have the hard conversations, buck the status quo but do so in a way that acknowledges nobody enters into life wanting to hate others – fear causes that. We have to stop making blanket statements about how “they” are one terrible thing or another. White people are racist, power hungry bigots, black people are lazy, criminals looking for a handout, the Right Wing are evil, the Left Wing are communists, Everyone’s a Nazi, politicians are destroying America (well maybe that one’s true), and on and on…it’s just US – all of US – on this little tiny planet in this vast universe together. So maybe it’s time to step out of our bubbles and put aside our fears and take a long hard look at ourselves, our systems, our perceptions and say “What can I do to make this better?” – “What do I not understand about this situation that would change my perceptions if I knew more?”
In the end I’m hopeful – when we start yelling at each other it means healing is closer. Just like in a family – we tend to go a long time letting things fester or stew. There are always issues that we let slide, overlook, or more realistically just talk about behind people’s backs because it’s often easier to vent to others about how someone has pissed us off than it is to sit down and really face the problem – and the possibility that we may share some of the responsibility for its existence. Confrontation is scary, loving people enough to face the hard truths is scary, being wrong is really scary. Finding solutions can also mean making changes – change can be scary and hard and inconvenient. We should do it anyway.
Happy Thanksgiving family. Keep fighting the good fight, keep loving each other and most of all keep trying to understand each other. Just keep trying.