Disclaimer: This is not about which side I’m on. It’s not about the merits of either side’s testimony in the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing. It’s about how we take sides, and how we behave once we’ve drawn the line.
Yesterday, I read a private Facebook message sent to me by one of my friends. It said,
“Tomorrow, female blackout from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Its a movement to show what the world might be like without women. Your profile photo should just be a black square so that men wonder where the women are. Pass it only to women … It’s for a project against domestic abuse. It is no joke. Share it.
Because I still have massive clay feet in the digital world (and elsewhere), I passed it on. But because I’m also a little more conscious than I used to be, after about 7 or 8 clicks on women friends, I stopped. Something felt off.
At first, I thought the message didn’t go far enough. I thought, really, that is a joke. The only one who benefits from us making our profile photos a black square on Facebook is Facebook. More activity on Facebook. More reaction to activity...on Facebook.
Do you want to really let the world know what it would be like without women? How about all women in the nation, hell, in the world, go on strike for a day. Just a day. Housewives, corporate executives, real estate agents, kindergarten teachers, bus drivers, college professors, nurses, doctors, administrative assistants, maids, plumbers, dentists, dental techs, waitresses, Oprah and every single thing she’s connected to (OWN would go dark for the day), skin care lines run by women…anyway, you get the picture.
I felt angry and righteous and solidified with my ‘side’. I felt hard, strident and rah rah in a way that, while kind of satisfying, has never won the day in the end.
A family member who didn’t agree with me responded to my message. She responded with love and respect, but said that while she did believe something had happened to Dr. Ford, she didn’t believe it happened under those circumstances and she was “at [her] limit with situational politics.”
Pause here and breathe for a moment.
I was going to respond with more of my side, breaking down her argument, so I could address each assumption on her part, and show her how she’s being manipulated by her people. But that didn’t really hold much water. Not because I was wrong, but because I was actually more right than I wanted to be. Not only is she being manipulated by her people, I am being manipulated by mine. We think it’s only going on over there. It’s not.
Politics is a dirty business. Democrats are not squeaky clean. Anyone seen Farenheit 11/9? The things I learned about some of what went down in Flint during the Obama administration were deeply disheartening. My guy. But look, there it is again: I went to a movie. The movie showed me something. I believed it, and took a side. I’m pretty sure it’s telling me the truth, but how do I know? Movies are in the business of manipulating how you feel about something. I wasn’t actually in the room when Obama himself said, “Yeah, let’s do that. Sounds like a good idea to me,” so I don’t know. But it looked bad, and I was so disappointed.
With the Kavanaugh appointment, we’re faced with a gigantic he said/she said war, complete with massive political machines on both sides, dedicated to maximizing division, amping up the volume, creating as much fear and loathing as possible. In that environment, we may never be able to prove what’s true.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us in the only place where we can effectuate real change: you with the person in front of you. In my case, just this morning, it was my family member. She approached me with respect and love. She told me what she thought. I took it in. I paused. I breathed. And found a respectful place to respond to her. I’m sure she had to work as hard to craft her message as I did mine.
This is where the world will change, one conversation at a time.
You might say, “Well, yeah, but you’re lucky. You got approached respectfully. What about my asshole brother? My uncle? My mother (dear God, how can she be for that guy?)! There’s a snarky, mean-spirited comment right around the corner, in every interaction.”
My answer is this. Multiply whoever’s driving you batshit by roughly 160,000,000 and you have the number of people on the proverbial ‘other side.’
Civil war is one option.
The other option is to commit to treating everyone (and I do mean everyone) with respect. It means maintaining our dignity — all of us — as we stand our ground. If it were easy anyone could do it.
Try it. Try it today. Sitting with your friends, see if you can refrain from badmouthing whoever you think is wrong in your life.
Find your dignity. Find compassion for anyone going through anything difficult, and believe me, we are all carrying a big heavy bag of troubles.
And in situations that require action, as I believe this current political moment is, commit to taking action that is rooted in that dignity no matter what anyone throws at you. Dignity that is rooted in the knowledge that everyone deserves respect and compassion — not just the one you feel best about supporting.
When we can do that, that’s when we will truly be “great again.”