I’m struggling to concentrate today. For most of the last week, I was on vacation and limited my social media intake. This morning, I fully re-engaged…
…and it is hard.
This morning, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is testifying before the Senate Judicial Committee about the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. This morning, many of my female friends are expressing how they are being re-traumatized by a system that either doesn’t believe women or, more likely, believes women but don’t care. This morning, the aftermath of “America’s Dad” being sentenced to 3-10 years for drugging and sexually assaulting numerous women is still reverberating. This morning is two days out from the President of the United States being laughed at by world leaders at the United Nations and half a day removed from The Mad King giving a press conference that was bizarre even by his standards.
I miss being on break from social media. I hate all of the hard.
I was tempted during my break to think about taking a longer hiatus from social media. That statement must floor people who know me well. I love social media and have always been an “enthusiast”. But lately, it’s been hard. It’s been hard since the election. It got harder with the inauguration and the almost daily fear of whose civil rights will be stripped away next or of which former allied nation we’ve now alienated. All of that has been exhausting.
But the hardest thing has been the stories. Stories like Dr. Ford’s. Stories like my wife’s. Stories like those of so many of my friends, family, and colleagues of men forcing themselves upon them. Those stories have flooded my social media, especially Twitter, and it’s hard. It’s hard because I feel complicit by my own bad behavior. It’s hard because I hate to imagine the fear and humiliation that so many who are so dear to me have faced. It’s hard because I am raising daughters. It’s hard because I am raising sons.
It’s hard and I want to look away.
And while there are many reasons for me to re-examine my relationship with social media, the echo chamber effect, the time wasted, the constant sense of being “on”, the tedium of everybody’s “hot takes”, etc…, I don’t want the reason I separate myself from it to be because I don’t what to look at what’s happening in the world.
One of the frustrations in my current work is that people don’t seem to want to talk about HIV anymore. I believe that is largely because, as a society, we can afford to look away. With a disease that affects largely the most marginalized of the marginalized and is fully manageable for those with resources, it is easy to avert your eyes. And yet to do so is another form of privilege. Privilege is the freedom to look away from another’s suffering. It is a privilege we exercise all too freely.
This morning, I decided to sit with my discomfort. I decided to read the harrowing stories. I forced myself to read things that made my stomach turn. I can’t look away. Not if I want to be a part of the solution. Not if I want to teach my sons right from wrong. Not if I want my daughters to know their own strength and dignity. Love says that I can’t look away. As a man, I could choose to look away from the pain of women, just as white people often choose to look away from the pain of people of color. It’s not what I believe God would have of me.
Don’t get me wrong, in the current environment, we can’t stay plugged in 24/7. I’m getting to a place where I need more breaks than I did before. I feel too deeply and I get overwhelmed. I need to make the space to do what I am doing now; processing and regrouping. But as much as I want to, I can’t numb myself to the pain of others. I’d be no good to anyone. Sometimes, I have to sit with all of the misery, if only to utter “Lord, have mercy!”. At the end of the day, it is compassion that I believe to be the highest of virtues. And we can’t suffer with someone unless we’re willing to look at them and see them until their pain becomes our own. I pray for Dr. Ford that she is seen today. I pray that everyone who has a story like her’s has someone in their life who will see them. And I pray that we as a nation will not look away and choose to be a better people.