I’ve been crying and dismayed and despairing this week. Partly about the latest news, but partly because all those memes going around about silence finally got to me. You know the ones.
How your silence makes you complicit in X horror — where X = xenophobia, racism, sexism, police brutality, and/or the systematic destruction of endangered species, to name a few. How your silence means you agree with the atrocity of the week. How your silence means you’re bad/evil/standing on the wrong side of history/etc…
The introvert in me is appalled at the thought that my silence makes me a kind of monster.
My silence is many things, but it’s not monstrous, and my sense is that your silence is complicated, too.
My silence is trying to process vast volumes of information and sort the wheat from the chaff.
My silence is a conscious effort to keep from adding to the noise.
My silence is a result of trying to sort my knee-jerk reactions and emotions (ALL THE RAGE!) from my ability to find an action I can take, and then taking it. (No words necessary.)
Action can be completely silent.
For example: my donations and budget redirects are a few clicks a month and don’t use a single word. There’s no reason for me to tell you about them except to make a point right here, because your believing that you’re wrong/bad/useless/monster-y for being quiet hurts my heart and makes me cry as I’m typing right now.
— I’m heartbroken about the proposed budget cuts to the arts (issue). Also, I’m a member of the National Academy of Poets and will continue to throw money at them should the budget go through in the U.S. as proposed, which would lead to a 100%-ish drop in funding (silent action).
— I’m devastated by all the ways the new administration is trying to stop average people from accessing basic rights (issue). Also, I’m a member of the ACLU and make regular booster donations (silent action).
— I’m committed to giving more money to journalists and to the protection of the first amendment (issue), so I cancelled cable TV and signed up for 3 new magazine subscriptions and 3 newspapers instead (silent action).
I’m not broadcasting this stuff all over social media and using endless hashtags to promote my causes, but I’m still taking action.
Let’s not mistake silence on the internet for silence, period. And let’s not conflate silence with lack of action.
Entering into conversation in real life with those who do not agree with you (silence on the internet) is far harder than sharing a meme on the interwebs and going about your day (thus meeting your socially pressured ‘speaking out’ quotient).
I’m doing my best to sit calmly with the wild feelings of discomfort that come of trying to understand the viewpoints of the opposing side. I’m talking with people about sticky, uncomfortable topics laden with fear and rage, intertwined with religious belief and the thousands of assumptions that live within each of us, many of which we discover are tender only when they’re pressed. That’s slow, hard work for all of us.
Let’s not make up one more reason to shame ourselves because we aren’t doing enough, trying hard enough, or caring enough.
If you’re having conversations about issues you care about that make you uncomfortable; if you’re paying attention and doing your best to keep fear and rage out of circulation in the articles you pass along; if you’re rethinking your budget to pay for more of what you wish to see in the world and less of what you don’t; if you’re squeezing your spare cash into supporting the arts in literally any way, shape, or form; if you’re actively seeking a cause or causes to support, volunteer with, or help; then relax.
You’re not being the dangerous sort of doesn’t-give-a-shit silent. You’re not complicit in the take-down of humanity. You’re not doing it wrong.
You’re just not doing your work at TOP 10 LEVEL SCREAMING VOLUME. That’s okay. Volume is not an accurate measure of effectiveness.
If you’re a person who gets loud and screams from rooftops to bring about change, do that! I’m not into shaming of any kind, here — I’m just reminding the Quiet among us that Quiet does not in any way equal Monstrous.
It’s okay to take action in the ways best suited to your humanity.
Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Don’t fall into thinking that doing your part, however small or tedious or monotonous, doesn’t matter. Don’t start thinking that you have to start issuing rants and using at least 14 hashtags for your message to ‘count’ or to be heard.
Please don’t fall into believing that there’s a single, ‘right’ way to make a better world. We’re all making it together.
You are not required to share articles or memes or lectures or hashtags with the world in order to be heard. You can enter into conversation with those you love about issues on which you disagree, or make donations to causes you adore, or volunteer with an organization you dig, or reach quietly into your own soul and listen to what it asks you to do in the name of bringing all of us to a better world. And you can count that as enough.
…and if you’re so overwhelmed that you haven’t done a thing yet? Overwhelm is a terrible and insidious foe. Is there a single, small action you can begin to take today? Here are small, free places to begin.
+ Resist bot will send faxes to your U.S. Senators and Representative when you text it some basic information with a few sentences about what you want to say. You can text it daily with the issue of the moment, et voila! Tiny daily action!
+ This Rebecca Solnit essay will help you draw the line between optimism, pessimism, and hope, in ways you might not have considered before.
+ This blog helps you keep up-to-date on daily political goings-on without descending into a rabbit hole of utter despair and without rant-y political comments at the end.
+ The Small Victories newsletter updates you with good news, wins for the resistance, and a next-level GIF game once a week.
+ This podcast episode will help you reset yourself amidst all the ick and blah and gross! of the news in general. or kristenkalp.com/podcast
+ Diversifying the voices you listen to can be massively helpful in shifting your perspective in secret, with podcasts and Instagram and books, and from the privacy of your own home. That means Christians listening to Jewish podcasts and white people listening to black voices and males listening to female voices and on and on and on…you know where you block voices, and therefore you know where to begin listening. 😉 Or reading. Or both.
Your quiet, your stillness, your thoughtful consideration, and your actions are needed. Please don’t let yourself believe otherwise.
With all my love –