Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
With the current events unfolding in the United States and this week, it seems trite to talk about anything.
As someone from my background I can never understand; I can never appreciate the pain, the suffering, the frustration with a system that refuses to change. I never have to have the fears that face communities on a daily basis and there is no word for that other than “privilege”.
What I can do, what I’ve been trying to do and wish to do better, and what so many in a position of privilege are refusing to do, is to listen.
Refusing to listen, or declaring your own personal job done because you’re not as bad as your racist Uncle Joe whom you only see at Thanksgiving, or thinking you’re not part of the problem based on your own personal lens, amounts to making a conscious decision to continue being part of the problem. Everything that’s happening right now, everything that has led to this boiling over in the last week, the systems and society that has not only allowed but encouraged the problems to persist, confers an advantage to those that benefit from a system.
On a societal scale, the benefit is obvious. On an individual scale it may not be obvious, it may be tangential, it may be smaller for some than for others, but it exists. Denying otherwise is becoming a willing accomplice. Like I’ve tried to explain to my own kids, if you get an advantage from someone else doing something bad, that doesn’t necessarily make you bad, but if you are fully aware of the advantage, and you do nothing about it, then you’re being bad. My kids seem to get it. There’s no reason why an adult shouldn’t.
So it’s imperative to start by using our ears. Listen to the very people who understand the situation better than you ever could. Don’t talk over them with your “yeah but”s – build up your understanding so that you can empower your voice.
And then use that voice that you’ve been given. I don’t mean use it to spew the warmed-over vomit of platitudes such as “all lives matter” or “why don’t we all just get along” – see the part above about being a willing accomplice at this point. And don’t just be content with sharing things on social media or otherwise shouting into the void. The problem runs deep and it runs wide.
Work with those closest to you – your family, your friends, your coworkers. If they’ve shut their ears to the voices that need to be heard then be that voice, try to open that door in their mind that will allow that change to take root. It will be uncomfortable, but if you think that discomfort is not worth your effort, then repeat step one again – listen, and try to understand why your discomfort is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
You will make mistakes. You will get called out on those mistakes. And there’s no shame in being humbled. Don’t stop listening just because no one’s putting you on the pedestal for finally trying to do something. If someone is injured and you’re trying to help and they tell you you’re hurting them in the process, are you going to argue? Are you going to drop helping altogether and walk away in a huff? This is no different.
It’s not about you, or your ego, or your inconvenience. The moment is not about you, but it is long overdue to make the moment part of you. Don’t let the next news cycle wash this away – you may have the ability to walk away when the channel changes, but that is not how it works for those who have to live it.
Make it a part of your life, and maybe everyone else’s will improve, too.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.