This week, Kelaine, our esteemed editor-in-chief here at The Prompt, handed out an assignment for me to write in conjunction with our #ToBeOrNotToBe writing prompt. It was meant to be a biography on a fictional boyband, 2B or Not 2B. It’s exactly the type of thing I’d love to write and fits in perfectly with “my brand.”
Then, white nationalists and neo-Nazis marched in Virginia. So, today I’m writing about that.
I’ve been struggling with how to address the Charlottesville rallies. This specific struggle is not new, rather a creeping feeling I’ve had since November 8th, 2016. With each day since President Trump’s inauguration, political stability wavers, civil liberties are shredded, and tensions mount higher. From screens on various devices, I watch my friends and family engaging in posts, discourse, and debate surrounding current events. I wish to engage myself and feel a pang of guilt at my reluctance.
In the past I’ve been a person who “opts-out of politics on social media.” Reflecting on that and reading other posts, I think my hesitation stems from two reasons:
But on this matter, I’m no longer afraid of saying the wrong thing.
The events in Charlottesville are reprehensible. Monuments to the Confederacy have no place of distinction in our country’s public spaces. Any left standing should be removed. They and their lessons should be remembered historically but should not be honored.
Those who marched in opposition to the removal of one Robert E. Lee monument were white supremacists and Nazis. Donald Trump’s refusal to outright disavow their support is terrifying. To call James Alex Fields’ driving a car into a crowd of civilians anything other than an act of terrorism is an offense.
Black lives matter, and to respond with “all lives matter” is a defamation of the movement. People of color, LGBTQ+ citizens, and people of marginalized religious backgrounds face anywhere from microaggressive behaviors to abject hatred everyday they live in this country. White citizens do not.
These are my thoughts. To some readers they might be interpreted as opinion. To some, fact. Some readers might see certain statements as offensive. To some others, obvious, even redundant. This is where my mind went.
As I watched the weekend’s events transpire, scrolling on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere, I reposted messages that spoke to me. Sentiments that spoke to the greater issue in a way I could endorse. I bided time to speak my own piece and soon those sentiments evolved. Outrage at the right turned towards criticism of the left and those observing in silence. Me. The message was clear and direct. To be silent in the face of outright civil crisis is only a luxury of the privileged.
I mulled this post over and over, coming back and forth from the Google Doc, changing single words, full sentences, or entire paragraphs here and there to better fit my narrative. I wanted to be clear, I wanted to be helpful. It may seem paltry (even I think it is in some respects) but writing an article like the one you’re halfway through reading kept me awake at night. It’s a far stretch from my normal genre: 90s to Early 2000s fan fiction. It’s a different article for me to post on Facebook or Twitter. For once, this piece can’t be preceded with “on a lighter note…” That’s a new feeling for me.
If you can relate, I encourage you to look ahead in the same light I do. I understand the desire to avoid politics on social media. “Facebook is already flooded with political vitriol and I’d rather not participate.” I get it. And I’m not necessarily urging you to reconsider, but more I implore you look internally as to why you might feel that way.
For me it was fear. It was discomforting. It posed a step outside of my comfort zone, and I didn’t want to expend the emotional energy. If you’re able to find the source, compare it to the daily trials and struggles of those with whom you empathize: people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, religiously ostracized groups.
It is often daunting to speak your mind, even in your social media bubbles of similar mindsets. People may tell you you’re not doing enough. It might be true. I am not doing enough. Don’t let it discourage you. Listen, reflect, and push yourself to do more. But if stepping outside of your comfort zone and into social activism means simply picking your matching reaction to a post on Facebook, great start. Commendable. It counts. Then do a little more. Repeat.
The truth is with crises as they are on such a massive (often global) scale, any degree of involvement—from protesting at the steps of city hall to retweeting a particularly apt Onion article—can feel like a drop in the bucket.
But the bucket is continually draining. Your contribution of even a drop is worth the effort. Just don’t let that be the last one.
If you feel a sense of contest with any of what I’ve posited here and want to talk about it, feel free to message me (I’m more or less “@jaykasten” all over the internet). I don’t look forward to it. In all honesty the thought of what discussions may follow is a little terrifying, but I’ll surely participate. I’m working to speak my mind because I think even that effort is of value. I know people engaging me have turned my own views around, so what’s to keep my engagement from doing the same for the next person?
As you may have noticed from reading other Prompt pieces (1, 2, 3, 4) this week, we’re all a little shaken. My “2Bornot2B” boyband article probably would have been a staged interview in some kind of Tiger Beat-like magazine. Maybe all their songs were based on Shakespeare stuff or each member was a different character from Shakespeare’s plays. Honestly, I haven’t read Hamlet and I’m only 70 percent sure that’s even the right play to attribute it to so I probably wouldn’t have done the pitch justice. But if we’re really going to talk about “doing justice” then I’ll end on this:
I’ve spent most of my life saying nothing because I was afraid of how it would be heard. My fears have changed. I’m now much more afraid of people I love waiting for my voice and hearing my silence ring decibels louder than the chants of their oppressors.
Don’t be silent. Be loud.