Families Belong Together.
I would tattoo this on the face of our broken country if I could.
I've been struggling with the 24 hour news cycle, the despair, the anxiety, the listlessness. I'm frustrated by our citizens' inability to think critically and logically. I'm astounded by the willful ignorance of millions. I watch as people accept pain that crushes the light inside them. I've recognized I'm not immune to any of this.
The first time I ever heard the phrase "willful ignorance" was in Spanish class my freshman year of high school. We were translating a short story and this was the closest English phrase our teacher could think to use. To be "willfully ignorant" was to know something but choose to act as if you didn't, our teacher explained. And in that moment, it was like a lightbulb went on. Somehow by naming the gaslighting, the illogical actions of seemingly logical people, the infuriating disconnect, I was given back my power. I finally understood how evil things were allowed to happen when it seemed like no one ever actually did anything. Silence is violence after all.
I probably used the phrase "willful ignorance" to death during the following months as the war in Iraq raged on and neo-conservatives in office repeated and doubled-down on lies. Even before so much cable news and social media and constant notifications, I was already in the trenches of awareness and political spectacle. And I didn't think it could get worse—in my teenage brain I felt like this was the moment of reckoning. Because how could things be worse than thousands dying in wars built on lies, Muslims being profiled, and pro-life legislation on the docket across the country. I thought it was a breaking point—we couldn't stretch further.
I was so fucking wrong.
After years of raging against willfully ignorant people and growing up in a country shrouded in lies and disdain for so many of it's citizens, we grew up to become adults only to find an even uglier world than we thought. And to be honest, we're tired. It's exhausting to maintain hope and optimism in a world where you have only ever felt distrust. For years we were treading water and now Trump's presidency feels like drowning.
The thing is, I'm forever an optimist. I see no productive reason for being a cynic—it doesn't accomplish a damn thing to assume nothing can be done. It's a cop out and I'm not here for it. I'm here to work. It's just sometimes it's a little exhausting. Like right now, with thousands of children alone in fenced-in holding cells and tent camps. Children who will be burdened with this experience for the rest of their lives—whose trauma will be passed down from generation to generation. My heart is ripped out by audio of desperate babies who just want their parents' hands to hold. I don't know who we are as we allow this to continue. I don't know who we are that we allowed this to happen in the first place. Families belong together. Families. Belong. Together.
It's moments like these that I'm reminded of Plato's cave. Or the Matrix, whichever reference suits your sensibilities. We can walk past the same awful sights every single day, but when enough of us stop and realize what we've done, we can't unsee it. It's like waking up, but to a nightmare you thought you could escape.
"Burn it down!" has become a battle cry in the past year, and for awhile it felt almost too aggressive. After all, I still feel like our systems could work if only we could fix them to work for everyone. But I've also come to realize that "burning it down" isn't about destruction, it's about rebirth. Civil disobedience is some of the most important and holy work we can do as citizens. Together we can create something so much more compassionate, but only if we’re willing to name the ways we’ve failed, take responsibility for the ways we’ve destroyed, and finally dismantle the systems we’ve built to oppress. Only by recognizing that justice and love cannot be governed by laws will we be able to bring about true equality.
In many ways, exhaustion can breed complacency. We're tired, it feels insurmountable, nothing seems to change. Yet, I'm constantly in awe of humanity's ability to be resilient. We see so much hurt around us and while we can't handle being awakend to all of it all of the time, when we do finally emerge from the cave, our exhaustion turns to fuel and we use that fuel to burn. shit. down.
You and I are more powerful than we know when we start looking beyond ourselves.