I feel like I’ve been ill a long time. I am working on managing my C-PTSD in a healthy way as well as slowly working through my healing. But I also face a growing weakness in my right side that randomly seems to turn into numbness and painful tingling or abdominal pain. As for what causes this, I struggle to discern, and thus I’ve be referred to specialists of whom I hope will have answers.
In the meantime, I struggle to write in a world that seems hell-bent in destroying folks like me, and that with the physical illness and my mental illness, words often feel like they’ve dried up, my fatigue and fear so heavy that it is hard to leave my apartment. At least, Sgt. Quark Amaya McFluffers is a lovely companion that brightens my days.
So here are some thoughts I’ve had (and posted to Facebook recently) to try to muster up courage and hope to counter despair:
Empathy and Love
I think about these words by Cornel West: “Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.”
And it hit me: If we are to build a better world, imagining what others going through is only sympathy. It’s when we act that the imagining becomes empathy.
And what is this action? We all know the power of words — words written or spoken is an action that can harm or heal.
And what is this action? It can be a physical action of walking with that person through a crowd to ease their discomfort. Offering a hand when a person has fallen. Making a meal for someone in need. Donating money toward another’s healthcare costs. Marching in protests.
Love without action means what? How can you love without the desire to act on that love for the betterment (hopefully) of all? How can one act on that love without holding oneself accountable? It is Cornel West that also gave us the reminder: Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.
In times of fear and terror and despair, we must remember that truth: Justice is what love looks like in public. And Love requires action. It breathes action; it shouts it from the sky. Love without action, without words, without that desire to express it, smolders and fades under crushing despair.
So act. Act on that love. Fear may try to bind us. Despair may try to suffocate us, but we must not let those hold the last word. To live, to love, we must speak; we must act. Let us not forget this.
Accountability and Love
I want to hold a safe conversation about the intersection of us holding ourselves accountable and how we may hold others accountable. It’s hard to form my thoughts around this, so bear with me.
We live in an abuse/rape culture that at every opportunity blames the victim who’s been hurt/traumatized, and thus things we never did — that others did TO us — gets shoved onto us as if we are the ones that must own other’s hurtful/abusive/exploitative/traumatic action or words. I feel like this is a huge issue within our communities, because of how abuse and rape culture affects all of us in different ways. And it would be dangerous to claim that any of our communities is free from this toxic culture, for that would be denying the abuse that has happened in our communities. Because that abuse does still exist, and we need to acknowledge it.
Is there a safe way for those that are hurt to have their space to heal, and those that hold themselves accountable for the hurt caused to learn and grow to be better? How do we deal with the intersections of these groups? How do we safely speak or call out someone who hurt us without either of us falling back on the tools of abuse culture? How do we safely accept this call out, own what we have done, and grow to be better without being cast out as unredeemable?
Because remember, none of us is perfect. All of us has, at one time in our past and present, done something problematic and/or hurtful to another. We all have our shit we need to own, to learn from, to be better.
Complicating this, we all have different areas of oppression and privileges, because of our intersecting identities. Finding ways to navigate this can be hard and complicated, but if we want to truly dismantle our oppression, we need to stop using the tools of the oppressors against each other. I’m not the only one to ask this — lots of folks of color ask it regularly too (bell hooks and Angela Davis are both good reads about the roots of this problem and possible solutions. Though it’s one thing to read about it — how do we then implement it?)
So I ask:
How do we uphold love, respect, dignity of all people within our groups? How do we stay accountable to our own actions in a way that causes the least harm, but at the same time, refusing to own another person’s actions or words? Because we cannot and should not own (or take onto ourselves) what other people choose to say or do as that is what abuse culture tries to force on us. It is not on the one hurt to bear what others have chosen to say or do.
We all got socialized within this culture — it’s in the air we breathe and is everywhere around us — the media, Internet-groups, in-person. Our culture is steeped in abuse and rape culture, because both are rooted in similar destructive and toxic ideologies that pervade the core of our culture, that is embedded in the white supremacist, imperialist, colonialist patriarchy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still fight and dismantle the effect of this socialization within each of us and our communities.
This is hard, I know. But this question needs to be asked, and we need to safely work together on it: How do we fight abuse/rape culture, stop ourselves from perpetuating it, and transform it into a culture of love?