What does your sympathy contain, what does it mean? Does it have weight? Can it substantiate itself in the face of examination? Does it contain much-needed self-reflection, the foundation of change? Or have you been satisfied by the notion that we can rewrite a long & sordid history of prejudice, ignorance, & privilege with the words “how awful,” a t-shirt & an IG post?
I cannot help but feel that what is needed from us is more than demonstration. Community support is important, especially local support, but kindness given without self-recognition comes up wanting in the end.
Have you called up your biases & examined them? Can you admit that you harboured misconceptions, resentments, made proclamations you want to now rescind?
I know I have, it makes me sick to sit with, but my comfort was the problem, to begin with. I feel my culture shushing me *we don’t talk about being wrong in public* but here I am. I was wrong MANY TIMES. I saw the world only through my own eyes & looked no further than what I was told, I did not understand or make an effort to understand the rights & privileges I had did not extend to everyone living on this land. Being wrong feels awful, but so does invisibility.
Do you ever feel like no one cares? Imagine that feeling amplified & reinforced by institutional, systemic, & cultural in-action, constant proof that you are not there and you were never there. Erasure by knife.
If you know this pain, you are not the enemy of the Other who feels it too. Like love, suffering is abundant & there is more than enough to go around without anyone losing their share. Your pain is valid too, but it is also shared. In that shared space is the connection we all need to heal.
Trauma does not stay neatly in history, it lives & breathes. We all carry our histories, immigrant stories of rough sea voyages, fleeing oppression, poverty, meeting new & harsh weather conditions, new diseases, not all of it privileged, & maybe this leads you to say, “my Ancestors suffered too,” or perhaps you are in a situation where you might say “I suffer now.” You will know then, as well as anyone, the weight & the gravity of oppression; you know that that shit carries & it is buried in your Mother, Uncle, Cousin, Child, SELF, and every single one of those people needs & deserves help, love, compassion, support, & empathy.
The Other is another Self.
The Mothers who lose/lost their children to not knowing whether they lived or died, you say you feel sorry for them, how would you cope? What parts of you would harden, want to escape, reach for ANYTHING to numb the pain of having your child taken from you?
What does Motherhood/Parenthood become when it is no longer safe to love when you know that your child could be taken away from you? What is it like to have everything that is sacred & nourishing become a function of control & punishment?
How would you behave after generations of hidden hunger, abuse, & being silenced to the point of invisibility, while others thrived all around you?
I would scream until my throat bled & my lungs collapsed. But I would be dismissed, put away somewhere, or they would create a narrative about me so that even though I screamed and I was right there next to them, they wouldn’t see me.
THAT is how it works! and within that narrative is the notion that the silencing was for the good of the voice, that the voice was speaking the wrong words, the voice didn’t sing the songs of the desert God & Eternal Rome, and only tongues that speak the right words should be heard. The voice must be taught to speak what is right and good according to the conquering law.
How does the narrative unravel? As the voice is only a whisper, someone has to LISTEN. Someone has to refuse to look away, to search for the voice and amplify it, tell others, until the voice regains the strength to carry itself. Eventually, the voice has a form & it is human, just like the people who could not see.
Now that we can see each other we know to listen for the whispers, we can try not to let others disappear again.
We will have to embrace being uncomfortable & inconvenienced and confronting hard truths about ourselves & what we hold sacred.
We have to stop thinking of ourselves as “good” or “bad” people & acknowledge that the best intentions of “good” people can still lead to genocide.
We owe it to all the lost voices not to separate ourselves from this, to ask ourselves, why is that? How would you want to be treated?
What are your core values, do you extend them to people beyond yourself? Do we assume that our way of life is better than someone else’s? Are we conflating “wrong” with “different”?
Can what is sacred to you and what is sacred to someone else peacefully co-exist?
Who & what do you make invisible in your world?
The inconvenient truth for everyone is that a more powerful group of people decided they knew what was best for people they did not know or understand and as a consequence, many innocents lost their lives & continue to lose their lives through echo and inaction. We cannot wish it or rationalize it away, but we can allow it to teach us, we can become trauma-informed, better, more compassionate neighbours, friends, & allies.
Trauma does not need pity, shame, or judgment, trauma needs understanding, patience, and persistent love.
I amplify the song of suffering to change the parts of me that would make the struggle of the Other invisible to me.
I dance the echo, I move my heart with yours; and if you need to grieve, I walk the silence with you so you are not alone;
and if you need to be seen, I celebrate you & I will not look away;
and if you need to hate me to heal, I honour your righteous anger & I brace your wing-ed rage.