- As an introvert, silence can be a healing hug when the world is overwhelming me.
- As a conflict avoider, silence can be a place of safety and comfort.
- As someone who hopes to offer well informed, thoughtful contributions, silence is often a space holder to allow me to gather more information before joining a conversation.
- As a teacher of children, silence is often needed to hear the real problem or feeling a student is trying to communicate during a time of distress.
- As a yogi, silence is the place that allows my body and spirit to speak, hear, and understands its needs and truths.
So much good can come from simply observing silence in life.
Since November 8th, I've been thinking a lot more about the other side of silence. About the unintended messages silence can send in times of distress or conflict. About the darker side of what silence represents.
- I've been thinking about all the times that I've used silence as a safe, comfortable option to avoid facing conflict, only to feel as though I have fallen short of honoring the beliefs held near and dear to my heart.
- I've been thinking about when I've interpreted another's silence as disinterest or apathy at a time when I've needed suppor or explanation.
- I've been thinking about how choosing to stay silent can send a much stronger message about who we are as individuals than words that are intentionally spoken to craft an image of us as a person.
Since November 8th, I have consumed more politically based information than I think I have the entirety of the rest of my life. I've read mainstream news. I've read information produced by liberal outlets. I've read information produced by conservative outlets. I've read the blogs and words of well known individuals, as well as those who are not so well known. I have read information covering general issues. I have read information addressing specific issues. I have read information that left me feeling angry. I've read information that has left me in tears. I've read information that has lifted my spirits and confirmed my belief that there is so much good in the world.
As I have considered why I have this sudden obsession for consuming information in an area I normally avoid like the plague, I can only come up with 1 explanation: I'm trying to make sense of, and find comfort for, the feelings I have felt since waking up on Wednesday, November 9th in a country that elected Donald J. Trump for president.
These are my true and honest feelings when faced with the reality of America's decision. Feelings I have sat with in silence to observe to be sure they are pure and true.
Feelings not tied to policy ideals or to party alliances, as some who are happy with the outcome of the election would suggest.
Feelings that are FAR from me simply being a sore loser.
Feelings that are an honest response and representation of my inability to support or respect the man who will soon be stepping into one of the most influential and visible offices in the world.
Feelings that align with my disgust for him, not because of a difference in opinion on policy, but because of his bullish behavior and frequently demonstrated lack of respect for the diversity of his fellow human beings.
As a woman, a mother of daughters, and an ally to several women who are survivors of sexual assault, it turns my stomach that a man who has been accused of sexual assault, and who has frequently demonstrated a total lack of respect for women, will lead our country as our next president.
I am sad and worried for those in my life who are gay; for those whose families are a dynamic mixture of nationalities; for those who, like myself, choose to practice a spiritual belief system outside of Christianity, and for the uncertainty that lies ahead in terms of individual safety and freedoms.
I am not naive enough to lump everyone who supports the selection of our next president to his elected office into a group of misogynistic, racist, homophobes, though we can not deny that a number of those very hateful type of individuals have been awfully vocal about their support for Trump. But what I have a much harder time wrapping my brain around is how the silence of those who supported him through this process, how the choice NOT to speak out against such comments and actions, sends a clear message of acceptance of said behaviors. I can't get over how, in the end, maintaining an alliance with party policy beliefs was more important for a large number of our population, including some of own family and friends, than common human decency.
It's a terrible feeling to think people who you love and care for could so easily set aside the safety and respect for certain populations of our fellow humans in support of political policy. Yet, that is our reality. Period.
So for me, as uncomfortable as it may be at times, this election has made me realize that I can no longer choose the safety and comfort of silence at the expense of speaking up about and supporting causes that I feel are important.
- I will no longer be silent when acquaintances "jokingly" make comments about women. Or about gays. Or about people of color. Or about religious traditions different from his/her own. (It happens more than I'd like to admit.)
- I will no longer choose to silently support causes important to me because I know there are others in my social circle who disagree with me on hot button topics. I will support them fully, proudly, openly, and without apology so that those who need the support of an ally know they can find a safe place in my presence.
- I will not silence my intention to create an environment in my home, and a community through my work, that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful.
I will continue to turn to silence for recovery, for reflection, and to recharge, but no longer will I be silent about issues in our society that promote hate, discrimination, and the possibility of the loss of freedoms. No longer will I allow my own fear of discomfort unintentionally send the message that my silence is because of acceptance or apathy.
P.S. After writing this post today, I read this opinion piece in The New York Times, which I thought was brilliant and also features the word silence. I also loved the passion of this piece by John Pavlovitz. And because her writing feels like home to me, I have to share Barbara Kingsolver's words as well. Happy reading.