I broke quarantine last week by taking a walk in the woods with my daughter and 7 trusted friends. We spent 4 days / 3 nights walking along the Sheltowee Trace in the south of Kentucky, mostly at social distance. There are many things that I love about long distance backpacking. One of them is that I am often out of cell range so have no choice but to be completely offline.
As I emerged from the woods on Thursday and started to reconnect, I learned about George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests (and looting and rioting…all different things). Welcome back to reality. I wanted to restock, turn around and head back into the woods.
For the last few days I felt myself falling back into the same pattern as I followed in March, when Covid first entered my reality. I was on twitter and reddit for hours a day. Trying to both get a handle on what was happening…and (shamefully) somehow enjoying the images and videos of protests, police retaliation and looting. Not enjoying it becasue I like what I saw, but because of some detached, self important sense that I was “living through history”. WTF is wrong with me?
Last night, as I weeded our garden, I listened to the President address the nation. I didn’t have high expectations, but the staged photo opp after the press conference took me by suprise…and got me really angry. I am a cradle Episcopalean. St. John’s, place of the staged photo opp, is an Episcopal church. I unexplanably found myself getting extremely worked up that the symbols / location of my faith was being used as a backdrop to make some ridiculous political point (Side note: I am not really sure what the point was. While he might have been playing to his evagelical base…but surely he knows that they are no fans of Episcopaleans with our pro-gay stance?).
Upon further reflection something else, even more disturbing occured to me: George Floyd was murdered by someone charged with protecting him and while that bothered me, it wasn’t the same intesnsty of feeling as I had about where a picture was taken. Why do I feel more strongly about the symbols of my faith than the basic right to exist of every human being? WTF is wrong with me?
Some of my reaction can be reasoned away because the photo opp was relevant to me – it gave me a place to stand in opposition. But that’s not enough. I am white. I have never been subject to any sort of harrasment or ill treatment from anyone in a position of legal authority. So at the surface it is easy for me to find no place to stand to oppose where I feel anything in common with George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and many others before and since. Where do I get off protesting something I have never experienced? Something that I (not anyone else) can know the whole truth of?
Bu that’s bullshit. I was missing our shared hummanity. Before being white or black or brown or purple; before being Episcopalean or Catholic or Jewish or Pastafarian, we are all human. We are all perfectly imperfect humans with hopes, dreams, ideas, experiences and relationships. That is my place to stand. So stand there I will.
And now a final realization that came to me while I was writing this post. Writing is not doing something. Or at least not doing enough. This blog has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts, with the (sometimes imagined) reader acting as a force directing me to be as clear and coherent as possible. So writing this post has served to help me get my thoughts in order, but thoughts without action are pissing into the wind. Far too often, I write something here (or worse post something on social media and feel like I did something. WTF is wrong with me?
I am ashamed of my initial insticnt to slink back into the woods and wish it would all go away, or at least all go away for me. If everyone like me, who thinks we can and should do better does that, where do we end up? No place good. At the same time, I am trying to have compassion for myself because it is really hard to know what’s true, to know what’s really going on. I really enjoy certainty. Knowing, for sure, that what I am doing is right and my motivations are well ordered and intentioned. What would it feel like to not have to know?
This deadly combination of feeling like I didn’t have a place to stand in opposition and not being sure of the “right” thing to do has been paralyzing. But no more. I can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Here’s my plan:
- I am not quite sure I am ready to join the protests, but I am supporting those that are by donating to bail funds. I gave to the Cincinnati, Lexiginton and Louisville funds listed here. I recognize there is a chance that I might be bailing out someone who might be guilty of more than nonviolent protest, but from what I have seen in my local area, the number of protestors being arrested for vilating curfew is far outnumbering the number of looters that have been apprehended, so I am willing to take that risk.
- I am going to start voting again. My politics are complicated, confused and ever changing. I haven’t stood in a voting booth (or otherwise cast my ballot since 2004 other than one single issue vote a few years back (whether or not the county I live in should be wet or not = sell alcohol) and this past KY Guberbatorial election so I could vote for the Libertarian candidate. I dropped out of voting based on the extreme position that “all voting is violence”. I still believe that, but I now believe even more in the idea expressed so well in the quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This does mean that I will have to spend more time researching candidates, their positions and their records. I am still not 100% confident that voting is entirely moral, but that seems rather esoteric.
- I am going to start showing up at meetings. I loathe adding this one to my plan given my brief experience going to shcool board meetings in what seems like a lifetime ago, but I am adding it because it represents another form of involvement and learning. I am sure there will be some wastes of time, I know I won’t make all of them, and I am not even sure what meetings I should start attending. Doesn’t matter. Google works and I have some time to spend. What else is more important than getting actively engaged in making things better.
This plan of action isn’t perfect. It might not do much of anything. I am sure there is still some ego in there. Some privelage that I am neither sensative too nor understand. But I can’t just think and write anymore. I just can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially when there is so much that could be better.