Recently, I had my wisdom teeth removed, and it was about as pleasant as it sounds, which is to say not at all. I think in that time period my friends and family thought I had finally run out of steam in my efforts to raise awareness about the assault on human rights that has been this administration’s stock and trade. But in reality, I spent those days resting and healing, and I took a necessary time out from the fray. I came out of recovery to the news of Eminem’s stand against Trump at the BET Hip Hop Awards that recently aired. The first thing that I did, after listening to what he had to say, was share it around.
I get that there are people whose response is that they wish athletes and entertainers would stay out of politics (and believe me when I say that the irony of those words is not lost on me with a reality show punchline warming a seat in the Oval Office). What they’re really saying is that they wish celebrities that they enjoy otherwise wouldn’t express opinions contrary to their own. But the thing of it is, whether we’re talking about athletes or actors or musicians, we all have a responsibility to do our part as citizens of this planet. We don’t always realize it, but we all share one race- the human race and the experiences that come with being human. When even one of us is oppressed, we are all affected.
The easiest comparison is always to Nazi Germany, primarily because it’s infamous in our history as a time of great genocide when we can easily see the damage that can happen when we don’t stand up for others. But throughout history, there have always been persecutions that have happened to other groups of people because the majority (be it race, class, gender, or even religion) has allowed it. They’ve allowed it through silence or through active participation, but if they didn’t stand against it in some way, they might as well have openly endorsed it for all the good they did. And that’s a cold, hard truth that many don’t like to look at when it means that their comfortable lives might have to get uncomfortable to stand up for others.
I consider myself a social justice warrior, but I don’t consider myself a perfect ones. There have been days when I’ve simply been too tired to raise the awareness needed or too weary to make yet another call to my representatives. And on days like this, I rest. I rest, and I recover- just like I’ve had to do for a medical procedure. And when I’m done? When I’m feeling better? I go right back into the fight.
But it’s not enough just to fight, to have a war of words or ideologies with the world around us. We have to act. It could be a matter of sending a text message or fax every day to our representatives or calling them up to let our voice be heard. Maybe we raise awareness daily on social media regarding injustice, or we stand up for people in real life when we notice racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, or any other stance that promotes hate and infringes upon someone else’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps we need to focus a little less on the national anthem and a little more on the preamble to the Constitution, which states
We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution…
Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock, for imprinting that in my memory for all time. Whether or not, we are US Citizens or the citizens of another country, we can do our part to stand up for justice- not only for ourselves and people like us, but for all people.
And it’s not enough to fight hard. We also have to love harder. This is the challenging part because it’s hard to love people that we see as our adversaries. It’s hard to love when we see them silently allowing a hate-filled minority to corrupt the country that we love. It’s especially tough to love that hate-filled minority of people who have come out of the woodwork under the current administration. I’m not Jesus, Gandhi, or Buddha. I’m not a saint, and I have more than my fair share of righteous anger sometimes. But if we’re ever going to unite as a country- or as people in general- we’ll have to do it under a banner of love rather than hate. We’ll have to come together and find some common ground so that we’re not torn apart permanently. This is when it becomes essential that we love harder than the people we see as our opposition.
Because it’s the love, and not the anger, that will carry us through.
Our love for others is what makes us social justice warriors to begin with. Our compassion. Our empathy. Our concern for the welfare of others. It’s what makes us all join together in times of tragedy, and it’s what can bring us together now in our division. Our love can remind us that we are not, in fact, separate from others. Our enemy is the hate. Our enemy is the lies that are spread to promote the hate. Our enemy isn’t another person or another group of people. I think that if we can find a way to be warriors who fight hard and love even harder, we’ll find our way to the light again.