I want words to be enough.
There’s a Doctor Who episode where the thoughts of every person on the planet turn towards a single word, revitalizing the hero, making him whole and strong again after everything has been stripped out of him. Every person on the planet thinking the same thing at the same time, amplified by technology, helps the Doctor to defeat the Master. He doesn’t defeat him by killing him – he embraces him, he forgives him. Someone else, of course, kills him – someone who’s been traumatized, perhaps more than anyone would ever know. But the act of the Doctor is to love and forgive and to use the power of the word, amplified, to restore the world.
I want there to be words like that. I want that science fiction to become fact. I want every person to raise their voices up against racism, bigotry, xenophobia, hatred. I want every person to take a stand and say no. No. This is not us. We are not this. We must not be. I especially want anyone who felt that Trump really was in line with their world view to take a good, hard look at themselves. Take a good, hard look at their prejudices. Try to align this with what the world could be, if only we all spoke out whenever we see injustice.
Sometimes we don’t. I asked my religious school children, 22 of them, to put their heads down and close their eyes to be anonymous. I asked them for a show of hands – how many have been a victim of bullying? 12. How many have known someone who has been bullied? 16. How many have gone along with something their friends did that made them uncomfortable, even though they didn’t want to? 18.
We’re better than this, you guys. They’re better too – getting the students to see where they have aligned themselves with something that doesn’t represent their hearts, their souls, will help them to take a stand next time. Talking to them about bystanders and their harmful role in perpetuating racism/sexism/classism/etc – that helps the next generation learn to change the world.
What is it going to take for all of us to see the same thing?
When someone makes a racist or sexist joke, who should speak out against it? It should be those who are in a position where they have more social capital in the room. It doesn’t have to be a big deal even. Just “Hey man. That’s not okay. Racism isn’t funny.” That’s all it takes. If a woman says, “Hey that’s not appropriate,” to a rape joke, many guys will roll their eyes and call her a bitch when she walks away. If a man says it, the guys will stop. They’ll look at each other, and actually stop their actions. They’ll think twice about making that joke again. The person who is in the more vulnerable position should not have to be the person telling the aggressors to knock it off.
When you see someone being harmed, you need to open your mouths. You need to ally yourself with those who are harmed. You need to welcome the stranger. You need to focus yourself on being what we CAN be, not what this election has shown us we ARE. We’re looking in a mirror right now, and friends, it isn’t good. We don’t look good. We look small. We look petty. We look afraid of change, afraid of progress, afraid of the stranger. We look like enemies of one another, especially those who don’t look like we do.
That is the Master. We need to defeat the Master through the power of our words and our actions. We need to put ourselves in the line of fire and stand up for the more vulnerable. Everyone has a place on the scale of privilege. This lesson plan can help older students/adults to understand this. Anyone who has a position behind you is someone you should stand up for. This is how we move forward as a society. This is how each and every one of us can recognize what our responsibility is. If you start standing up for people, you’re going to find other people will follow your lead. We can walk together forward. If we don’t walk forward by bringing those who are behind us up to where we all have equal footing, we’re never going to make progress. We need to make progress. We deserve progress.
If you hate that we’ve gotten here and you hate that men like Steve Bannon are being given a voice of authority in our country, say something. Take the step of standing up for others. Listen when people who are afraid of this country are talking. Take them seriously. Help. Engage.
Start with things you see, and calling your representative, your senators, the heads of the house and senate – this is how we speak up on a larger scale. Here’s a spreadsheet that will be updated weekly with scripts, if you’re scared, or don’t know what to say. I myself am anxious of calling, and I’ve done it, and it gets easier every time. Remember that the more people who call, the more people who engage, the more it works. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
Power words begin with “I hear you.” “I see you.” “I am here.”
When you’re here for others, when you’re listening and seeing, and you translate that into action – that’s when the power words start manifesting change. We can all do this. There’s really no other way.