I’ve been speechless in the wake of high-profile suicides by teen girls who were raped and then mercilessly slut-shamed. As I struggled to find the words to express my thoughts, news of the Boston Marathon bombings hit, and then the killing of the soldier in London. Now, there’s the growing anti-Muslim backlash.
The common refrain in these situations is, “How can people do this?”
I’ll tell you how. First they convince themselves that women or cultural groups or people of a different sexual orientation or political philosophy or religion are less-than equal and less-than human.
When you acknowledge the humanity in others and don’t buy into a separation of us-versus-them, hurting or killing others is unthinkable because they’re not “other”. When you look in someone’s eyes and see your own staring back, how can you strike them down?
How can people do this?
Easily. It starts with words like this:
It’s hard to remember that our species is capable of occasional acts of selflessness and beauty. It’s easier to descend into hopelessness. But that’s the crux isn’t it? Hope just sets us up for a fall.
I am trying to give up hope, but it’s a hard habit to break. If I can’t rely on hope to see beyond the darkness of humanity–a darkness we all share, what then? This is my struggle.
The answer, my friends, was on Facebook:
Sometimes I feel like I don’t have faith, but if believing that another breath will follow this one and that morning will follow this night, I guess you could say that I have faith.
What I’ve been missing was perspective. Without perspective, it’s too easy to believe that all humanity is shit and in doing so, forget the hands that have lifted me up in in good and bad times, and miss opportunities to extend that kindness and support to others.
As I like to say, if your head is in the toilet, all you see is shit. I’m getting sick of the view, ya know? Then, I look at my children, family and friends, and I feel better–until fear starts bubbling up because I want them all to be safe all the time. The trip from despair to fear is a short one for me.
I’ve been listening to Brene Brown‘s audiobook, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t). Brown is an expert on shame and vulnerability . I want to thank Schmutzie for tweeting about Brown. Brown’s work will change your life. Here’s a quote from the book that’s a reality check about the us-versus-them paradox:
“We are the others. Most of us are: one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being those people. The ones we don’t trust; the ones we pity; the ones we don’t let our children play with; the ones bad things happen to.”
We are all vulnerable to misfortune. Let’s not contribute to people’s pain by distancing ourselves to feel safe or superior.