Love Has Some Work To Do

Hi there! It’s been a while. I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, but things have been good. What have you been up to?
Wow. I go on hiatus for less than a year, and this is what happens?
Well, ok. Time to roll up my sleeves and get back to work…

Remember the old “Dunning-Kreuger Effect”? Where you don’t realize what you don’t know, and assume that you know more than you actually do? The funniest aspect of that is when people talk about how they overcome the Effect, ignoring that they are proving it with that very statement. I kind of wonder if there is a corollary of that effect, where you assume that other people know more than they actually do, or that they have more compassion and awareness of others than they actually do.

…the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment. – David Dunning

I’m not going to get political on this blog, because that would be redundant. Writing it is a political act. I’m not scared of Donald Trump as the President; I’m terrified of what his presence in the White House seems to inspire in many of his followers. As one commentator put it, when the KKK is having a victory parade after the election you know there’s something wrong.

I’m fortunate, through the accident of birth, to be one of the least affected by his policies. I won’t be profiled based on how I look, I won’t be laid off due to his economic policies, and even my health care is likely to stay thanks to my status as a Veteran. That’s what privilege looks like, and it’s a powerful thing, and that’s what I mean when I say there’s work to do.

If you’re not scared – I’m glad! The world needs less fear. That might give you the space to breathe and pay attention to the millions around you who are scared. That’s what compassion looks like, being able to grasp the idea that just because you don’t feel a thing, someone else might feel it. Understanding the idea that the world you live in, where you aren’t worried, where you just think “Oh, it’s only four years, I’ll survive it” may be true for you, but may not be true for many others.

This is not where I tell you that you have a duty to comfort and protect and care for those who are already feeling the persecution that Trump’s victory has inspired. I can’t tell you that; but what I can tell you is that history tends to honor and respect the protectors, if that’s important to you. If you’re looking for more immediate rewards, well, compassion can give you that too: “Volunteer work improves access to social and psychological resources, which are known to counter negative moods such as depression and anxiety.

Personally, it’s just hardwired into me, from generations of family members who step up to help others, whether for religious or simply practical reasons. When my father’s law-enforcement job gave him EMT training so that he could help counter hijackers back in the ’70’s, he didn’t just sit around with that training. He volunteered with the local EMS, delivering babies, carrying people out of burning buildings – and that’s on top of being a great father, an active member of the lay clergy, and enjoying his hobby of building muzzle-loading rifles.

In other words: choose to help others, or don’t. But saying “I just don’t have time” is not going to be a valid excuse.

If you are scared…

I hear you. I’m scared too, for my daughters who are part of the demographics that are currently targets of this administration, for my grandsons who will have to deal with the effects of a Scaliaesque Supreme Court, for my friends and neighbors who are now wondering more than ever if they are going to be shamed, harassed, beaten, or worse.

Like many white males, the first response is to want to Save the Day. In my daydreams I step in between the Bad Guys and the Victims, and my steely gaze and broad shoulders cow the bullies into submission. In the White Knight scenario I am somewhere between Batman and Mr. Robot and Donnie Yen in the Rogue One trailer.

That’s a trap. That whole White Knight idea was part of the toxic masculinity that got us into this mess. I’m always going to love that fairy tale – but in reality, the way to be part of the Alliance is to listen.

What do you need?

I’ve heard from some people. They tell me they need spaces where they can feel safe. They tell me they need to know that they are not alone – through passive means that don’t draw attention to them, such as a simple safety pin. They tell me that yes, they do need people like me to call out the harassment if and when we see it – so hey, I might get to use my steely gaze after all!

I’ll do those things. I’ll keep listening, as well. What do you need to make it through this? 

These are the things I’ll be doing both in practice and here on the blog. Turns out I was wrong; just because I was saying things that other people were saying, it didn’t mean that people were listening. Meanwhile, my readers seemed to draw some comfort and inspiration from the words here – so I’ll keep them coming as well.

When I say I am part of the Resistance, know that I’m not talking about anything as simple or transitory as a political movement. I’m resisting ignorance, cruelty, and most of all, fear. The best tool against all of these – not the quickest, not the easiest, but the best – is love.

Love has got some work to do.

Let’s get to it.

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