June 14, 2016

When the Darkness of Tragedy Compromises our Faith in Humanity.

Flickr/studio tdes

I have found the last few weeks of news headlines to be overwhelming.

First, there was the verdict in the Brock Turner case, allowing a rapist to receive minimal punishment for what has been termed “20 minutes of action” out of concern for his future. This verdict ignored entirely the impact on the future of the woman he raped.

Now we’ve seen the worst shooting in American history, in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub. 50 deaths and many more injuries have been reported.

To underscore both of these tragedies, my social media feed is filled with political rhetoric. Just a few minutes of scrolling through posts leaves me angry, sad and exhausted in turn.

How is it that so many people can be enraged about the Brock turner case and then post hate-filled commentary on the news that we have our first female presidential candidate running for office? Do they not see how these are connected, how the insidious roots of sexism exist inside both stories?

These aren’t separate issues.

The double standard that continues to perpetuate rape culture is also present in our politics. When a female candidate runs for office, regardless of political affiliation, the rules are different for her than for a male candidate. This isn’t a level playing field, and it’s inconsistent to feel outrage over one and yet dismiss the other.

These are all feminist issues.

And feminism isn’t just about women—the reach is inclusive of the LGBTQ community. The Orlando massacre shares roots with these stories as well, as Pulse was known to be a safe place for the LGBTQ community, until now. This story also intersects with the Turner case when you compare the obvious white privilege with the racist and homophobic actions of the terrorist who took the lives of men and women who did nothing more than go out to have a good time in what should have been a safe place. Sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. People who were loved and who were full of life until someone took that away from them.

As I look at all the news stories hitting my feed, I see them dovetail into this one larger issue.

As a woman, as a feminist and as a human being who gives a damn, I find myself disturbed and unsettled under the weight of the knowledge that no matter how far we’ve come as a society, we still have so much further to go. These last few weeks have shown us that sexism is alive and well. Bigotry and hatred are still present, and there are people who have to live in fear because of it. Our way forward will be uphill and fraught with challenges.

I wish that I had solutions for us all, that I could provide a list of simple steps to dismantle the patriarchy, break the glass ceiling, end senseless hate crimes and fix the problems in a society more concerned with the plight of the rapist than with his victims and more concerned with assigning blame to politicians than evaluating our own hearts for seeds of hatred and discrimination. I wish that I knew of a way to bring us all closer to peace because I know that many of us are hurting today.

I don’t have the answers.

I don’t have directions that will lead us out of this darkness.

What I do have, however, is hope. I harbor hope that kindness and love can still triumph over discord and hate. I have hope that despite divided allegiances to political parties, despite our lifestyle choices or personal backgrounds, despite our skin color or religion or social status, we are all connected to one another and that kindness and a wish for peace are still alive and well in the world today. Sure, not everyone who advocates peace manifests it in their lives. Oftentimes the way we live our lives isn’t consistent with our value systems, and that’s the first thing that must change if we are to move forward.

But I think that there are so many of us in this world who do want peace, who do manifest it. We are the ones raising children to understand that hate in any form is not acceptable, that we should always treat others the way that we want to be treated. We’re the ones who lead with kindness rather than anger or hate, who keep trying to do better and to be better because we know that we’re capable of so much more than our basest instincts. We’re the ones who have a kind word or a helping hand for others, who speak our truth in kindness and who live with love radiating outward every day.

On days like these when our hearts are heavy with sadness, we’re sending out our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, the city of Orlando and the LGBTQ community. We’re sending messages of love, donating blood and doing whatever we can from wherever we are to show our support. This is where I’m placing my hope. This is the kindness and love that I can believe in.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ~ Fred Rogers


Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: Flickr // studio tdes

Editors: Sarah Kolkka; Erin Lawson

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