I sometimes have the habit of driving other's to frustration. Some people laugh, "Oh that's Cheryl, it's just how she is," others, like my beloved father-in-law love to get me started so to speak just to enjoy a fun debate. While I can laugh at myself, it is also something I take very seriously. You see, what is so distressing to some is my inability to keep my mouth shut on issues of social justice, violence, human rights violations etc...But I'm glad I make people uncomfortable. I once heard someone describe themselves as the broken spring in a La-z-boy. eventually that spring becomes so uncomfortable that the person sitting in it just has to move. I will gladly be that spring as well!
I don't want to live my life cocooned with comfort and safety without being aware that there are many within our human family who aren't safe, who have been stripped of their personal power or basic human needs. I don't think it's OK for me or anyone to turn a blind eye because such issues make us uncomfortable. Dr. Sandra Bloom said "Hate is hate and it is infectious, and it influences action. Our influence upon each other is startlingly powerful. We can all bear witness to this responsibility by responding negatively to racist comments, sexists jokes, any remarks that are designed to hurt or humiliate others." (I would add the r word very specifically to that list). She also points out that "As bystanders become increasingly passive in the face of abusive behavior" the perpetrators become more abusive and more difficult to stop. There is abuse and violence everywhere yet most of us don't talk about it, don't want to think about it, or blame it on the victim. I ask you, how is a child at fault for the abuse inflicted by his or her parents? How are women at fault in countries where they are oppressed, raped, beaten and stripped of their voices? I also ask you, aren't we as much to blame when we stand back as "innocent" bystanders and do not act, do not speak up, do not give another's suffering more than a moments thought?
Bloom reminds us in her book "Creating Sanctuary" of the story of Kitty Genovese who was brutally murdered while "38 of her neighbors watched from their apartment windows." The attack in March 1964 took place in New York, and while it lasted over half an hour, her neighbors watched and failed to call the police until Kitty was dead. We are as guilty as those neighbors when we knowingly remain passive as children starve or are denied access to medical care, as people with disabilities are excluded and oppressed, as women are stripped of their dignity. This list is just the beginning of what we allow to happen within our country, let alone the atrocities carried out around the globe. Melville said "We may have civilized bodies and yet barbarous souls. We are blind to the real sights of the world; deaf to it's voice; and dead to it's death. And not till we know that one grief outweighs ten thousand joys will we become what (God) is trying to make us."
I know it seems overwhelming. We are faced with so much when we begin to pay attention that it threatens to swallow us whole, but making a difference really only requires a small amount of action. The only you thing you need to make a difference is your voice. Speak up, don't be a passive bystander, don't allow people to joke at the expense of an entire group of people. Stand up and say something! Did you know that in the countries where Jewish people were highly valued by society during WWII there were fewer Jews killed? However, in the nations where Jews were devalued and anti-semitism was at it's highest were the countries in which most Jews were killed? awareness and value for all human life can truly make a difference, can actually save a life.
So, I will continue to be that spring in the La-z-boy if that's what it takes, and I'll continue to enjoy being a pain the ass...Won't you join me?