The critics who site narcissism as the reason behind sweeping tides of apathy in the realms of politics and social justice are getting it wrong.
In most cases, people aren’t even apathetic. They care, deeply.
In fact, the truth is that we are afraid to confront how much we really care.
To acknowledge how much we really, truly deeply care would open up pain.
— The pain of watching as a black mother grieves because her unarmed teenage son was shot and then the system that purports to punish such crimes completely fails her.
— The pain of watching the world forget, after a couple hundred Nigerian girls are abducted while they are at school, not to be seen again, likely being raped and forced into marriage by their abductors.
— The pain of what it truly means to be poor and hungry.
— The pain of how bleak life is when you don’t have access to clean water.
— The pain of what we are doing to our own environment, building pipelines that are going to inevitably burst and wreak environmental havoc; sucking up water even in times of drought.
We close off our hearts because opening them feels like too much. And the most painful thing of all?
The pain of feeling powerless.
The truth is, as I sit here typing this in my comfortable two-story, multi-bathroomed home with my daughter sleeping peacefully in the next room and my husband working on his laptop while I work on my desktop and the two cars sitting outside of our home and the iPhones and iPads (plural)…
…the truth is that I cannot actively and directly do anything to single-handedly solve these problems. I cannot make Ferguson convict the white cop, who shot an unarmed black youth that was holding hands in the air. I cannot fly to Nigeria and single-handedly return those girls to their families who so desperately love and miss them. I can feed one person, but I cannot end world hunger. I cannot stop the Keystone XL pipeline. I cannot even make my neighbors stop watering their lawns or the local car dealerships stop washing all those unused cars on their lots, day after day.
Those truths are really, really fucking painful.
But I will do this: I will open my heart enough to care.
When I open my heart enough to care, then those mothers can never grieve alone.
On some level, I’m aware that that’s a pithy and meager contribution to the world’s problems. I could trot out other things that I do, donating money or time or resources, for the public’s general assessment of whether or not that’s “enough,” but the truth is that even to me, the things that I give or donate or offer never quite feel like “enough” when I know that people suffer, and I think that that’s just part of the deal.
On another level, I have a faith that open hearts and love are a more powerful force than we can tangibly recognize.
I have a faith that the day will come when the world will say its collective “NO” and that the power of our voices, together, will mean something.
And in the meantime, there’s this, my voice. This privileged, white voice that wants to use that privilege for something, for speaking up, and for giving a damn.
To the mothers who experience the suffering of watching your children being shot simply because of their skin color? Please know that someone cares. Someone gives a damn. And someone is willing to say, “That shouldn’t have fucking happened. Ever. It’s inexcusable. I support YOU, not the flawed institutions. Wherever I see a place for me to lend my power, my privilege, my voice to stopping this? It’s on. I’m with you. You’re not alone.”
I stand with Mother Nature, with people who are hungry, with those who are at the front lines of getting access to clean water to everyone. I stand with respect for the ground we walk on. I stand with love that transcends our fears about skin color and cultural difference.
I stand with all of those things because I have the courage to give a damn.
My greatest wish is that after reading this, you will, too.