choosing to know

I’ve been piecing together some silly pieces about our most recent house problems, but I’m having a hard time being funny. One of my longtime coping skills is to poke fun at the absurd in the tragic – flying cows in hurricanes and the like.  Sometimes it’s okay – a heartfelt quest for little joys in the darkness – and sometimes it’s just inappropriate. Today it feels inappropriate.

I have some dear friends walking dark roads, while I watch, listen, dig for something to offer and keep coming up empty. I don’t understand, but I’d like to. I will be your friend and I will hurt with you and I will listen.

(Trigger warning for the following section and included links: abuse, rape culture, victim blaming)

I’ve cared for a long time for some heavy things. Through high school I spent free time reading up on poverty. In college I watched documentaries on child soldiers, slavery, and evils of the chocolate industry, joined a college group devoted to keeping a close eye on the violence in Uganda, and signed myself up for e-mail updates from anti-violence, anti-trafficking, anti-pornography groups and wept while I read them. I soaked it in and soaked it in and finally found myself ready to share and then I found this:

That nobody wanted to listen.

Don’t bring up rape culture in your women’s Bible study. Don’t connect the dots from poverty to education to sex trafficking to pornography to rape culture to chauvinism to modesty checklists when all people wanted to do was talk about possibly feeding the children. Just don’t do it. Unless you’d like to make people all shifty and how does she even know this stuff, don’t do it.

Apparently it is not widely considered normal for people to know these things. Except for the other weirdos in my activist group, I couldn’t drag friends along to documentaries, because it would make them sad.

If you care while it’s inconvenient and painful, keeping you up at night and sapping your attention span, and if you care enough to make yourself know, be prepared to be thought strange.

I would add now, to temper younger idealist me, that it’s okay to take sabbaticals from all this knowing. Sometimes, personal issues overwhelm, and if it’s all you can do to climb out of bed in the morning, maybe you should pause your diet of depressing news. (That’s part of why companies that focus on social issues have such high turnover rates and problems with burnout and are buddying up with trauma counselors.)

Rest. Find joy. Cry some. Read for fun. Cry some more. Then put your head down and press on.

Find a shelter in the storm, friends who are safe places, people who will grow with you.

And learn. Because it’s the only way to speak like someone who’s not absorbed in ignorance and privilege. Because you’ll stop donating microwavable popcorn to the homeless and fur coats to hurricane victims in Florida. Because you’ll stand a better chance of responding appropriately to horrors like Steubenville’s and your children won’t grow up thinking it was all somehow excusable. Because then, perhaps, we’ll stop dragging victims into the square and asking Jesus to stone them.

And maybe someday, in the distant future, in a Bible study, a young woman will mention that she loves that her Jesus combatted rape culture, and someone will say, “I love that too.”

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6 thoughts on “choosing to know

  1. Pingback: holy coffee | la corbeille

  2. oh, this.

    thanks. I’ve been….this…ever since I started coming home from college. I would try to share exciting things I’d learned about the Bible, and church history (etc) with my family, and the skepticism, the glazing over, the wariness, it all lurked just beneath the surface. I read SO much for my job, and have SUCH an interest in things.

    It’s lonely. It’s so so lonely to care about things. I don’t want to be one of “those educated people” who feels she can only fraternize with the upper echelon of also-educated-people, but I understand now why that happens.

    • I think you’re on to something — there’s seems to be a prevalent misunderstanding that you have to be formally educated to be tuned in to worldwide events. My liberal arts education was definitely the jumping-off point of my search into these things, but in reality, most of what I learned came from documentaries, books, conferences, and online sources that are available to most people.

      This kind of discussion shouldn’t be ostracizing — we should all be present in that discussion. Until we realize that, we won’t all realize that we bear the responsibility.

  3. Pingback: waiting to speak: lessons along the road to justice | la corbeille

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