I’ve been feeling like I might cry for weeks now. The Stanford rape case hit the news. 50 people were killed in Orlando. The fragility of life and the vast inequity that led a judge to give a rapist only six months in prison has floored me. The evil and callous responses to the deaths of the club-goers in Orlando have me wondering if I can recover. And the way that life continues on, same as it ever was, gives me pause.
I forced myself to read the statement made by the victim in the Stanford case. I read that statement multiple times and I shared it and I took it to heart that there are so many people who do awful things, and plenty of people who don’t care that awful things happen, because they don't consider them awful. The rapist's father cannot see how what his son did was anything more than a poorly considered transaction; a thing that takes 20 minutes, a rape, a destruction of a life did not embarrass him, did not wake him to his son's toxicity.
It's disgusting that we live in a world where we cannot all agree that a body belongs to the person who lives inside it. It's a foul and repugnant suggestion that the type of body or the opinions of that body or the clothes worn by that body are ever to blame for the violence that occurs against that body. It's a tragedy and a crime against our species that these events can occur. It's depressing to know that so many feel apathy and that some who would lead our country feel that encouraging hatred is an acceptable leadership tactic.
Evil is not new. But our view of the stability of the world is completely disconnected from reality. The privileged, whose power could catalyze change, have been fed a story of prosperity and peace that contains only tangential references to the struggle of those lacking resources. White suburban dwellers have been trying to forget the plight of their fellow citizens since suburbs were invented, and those with a vested interest to stay powerful have encouraged that forgetfulness at every turn. Technology has added additional demographics to the list of the forgetful, encouraged by the advent of content filtering and curation. Would you be surprised to know that the Orlando killing was not, in fact, the largest mass shooting in the United States? Or that only two of the daily mass shootings that claimed over 400 lives in 2015 could be attributed to Islamic terrorism? That doesn't fit with the narrative we're fed, now does it?
No wonder it’s so surprising to white people when the world starts to show cracks. It’s surprising, but it doesn’t get absorbed the way it does by people whose own lives are affected by racism, sexism, homophobia, or toxic masculinity. We see these tragedies as blips, aberrations, and situations that have slipped through the system. We can’t see that this is normal and has been for some time, that death is a reality for people the world over, that tragedy and suffering are a daily reality for more people than for those it isn’t. People whose experience is violence against their person do not feel OK. People whose experience is fear are not surprised by the violence in Orlando or the experience of the Stanford victim.
We have to stop being surprised. We have got to stop allowing ourselves to feel OK about this. It is offensive that we are partying when hundreds, thousands, millions die from tragedies that can be prevented. And it’s short-sighted and self-aggrandizing to believe that we're not part of the problem. You are. And we'll continue to be until you get off your ass and do something about it. It doesn't matter if you're part of the population affected, an ally, or you'd prefer not to be "political." The lives of your brothers and sisters, of your fellow humans, are at stake.
Sadly, even if you act today, more will die. More tragedy will occur. Do yourself a favor: don't feel OK when it happens. Don't allow yourself to process it and move on. It's not time to think about how you can eke out another email at work or be sure to meet that Tindr date. It's time to reflect on what you're so interested in preserving, so dedicated to building. It's time to consider what kind of life you're creating and on whose backs it's being laid. There is no other answer but outrage, right here, right now. There is no other solution but action, change, and an unwillingness to settle.
It's not enough to question or to be defiant. It's not enough to feel that something is wrong or to agree that people should not be treated this way. It's not enough to sign petitions or go to rallies. Change your life. Change the way you speak to children, the way you react to the "harmless" transgressions of your friends and coworkers against vulnerable populations. This will not be a top-down change. This will start with you owning up to the part you play in each and every action taken against your fellow humans. It's time to grow up, and it's not OK to feel OK.