I do not remember ever before feeling such extreme emotions. When I come in contact with the news, or politics, or domestic issues I fight the impulse to hide — behind the shelter of my white skin and safe homes. From all the anger. From the television.
Two nights ago we found a bird’s nest tucked into our Christmas tree. I thought to myself, this is an auspicious sign for the new year ahead. I need that word in my vocabulary right now. I will definitely use auspicious again. We carefully gathered the loose sticks and rested the small wild bundle on the mantle.
The next morning I woke to read that my niece was “safe in lockdown during violent episode at Ohio State.” I had to turn on CNN for the first time since November 11 and try to understand. My heart broke that day for the victims of the knifing and that lovely ambitious first-year college girl I know who will now have to look over her shoulder.
I read the New York Times daily, hoping they can stay the course of censorship. But at the same time when I read today’s news I now doubt the authenticity, question the thoroughness, wonder about the pressures I cannot see as the articles go to print. My writing groups have heavy, hesitant fingers as we wrestle with the effectiveness, racial tones, language and impact of our words. We are reluctant. We are recalcitrant. We are striving to mitigate anger, make sense and at the same time empathize in order to understand the picture before us.
I find I am becoming silent. Until I came face to face with ignorance. As I walked through my town on the coast of Massachusetts the other day, two acquaintances stopped me and laughed.
“Did you lose a button?” they asked, scrutinizing the safety pin on my jacket. I was actually struck silent. After a few words of greeting, I walked away full of anger. It was then I knew I needed a new vocabulary. And I needed to start using it.
I wear a safety pin to indicate I am a safe person, aware that people are sufficiently unsafe in their sexual preferences and appearance everywhere, even here. The incoming administration has made no secret that they believe all equality mandates should be withdrawn. I am purchasing larger safety pins but am I saying what needs to be said to educate, inform and create a safe place? No. I became angry and judgmental. Who does that remind you of?
In two days my world has swung from auspicious to violent, from recalcitrant to empathy, from speechless to this blog. This is a beginning. These will be the words:
Safe. Understand. Listen. Question. Don’t assume. Facts. Tell me. Next time, I will explain LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Trans and Queer) to my friends when they laugh at the dime store pin on my chest, not go silent in anger. I will chose actions important to humanity, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
The bird’s nest rests on my mantle to remind me that all worlds collide. To be a humanitarian — for all creatures, great and small, of any color, in any place — I cannot hide. I am a white middle-aged woman full of words. I will select the ones that count for others. In my mind there is really no other option.
What words will you use?