August 14, 2017
We just love when stuff like Charlottesville happens. We eat it up. We scroll down day after day waiting for stuff like this to happen. Drooling over events — horrific, but infrequent — that validate the narrative we want so, so bad to be true.
The saddest part about this, though, isn’t how much we love and reward those who break things and beat people up. It’s that our narratives would often have us wishing more of this stuff would happen. We refuse to believe these incidents are isolated (they are) because otherwise it’s just not as fun, just not as exciting. We insist that, yes, this does mean “we” have a serious problem. It does mean there are people out there who are plotting evil and want us dead. It does mean we need to freak out.
No, we don’t post to Facebook about the beautiful day we had — the sermon at church, the new word our child learned, the unfamiliar bird that landed on our window sill. But we absolutely will post about just how evil these protestors are, and just how evil are those who don’t denounce them, and just how worried we ought to be about all this stuff.
Mostly we do it because we’re bored. But also we do it because we want to be right. Because we aren’t very invested in the day-to-day realities around us, and so seek some kind of “purpose” in the news, even when we can’t think of a single person we know who’d ever participate in anything like what happened at Charlottesville.
Inevitably someone will find something incorrect with what I’ve said here. Something they disagree with. No, they’ll say, I just don’t understand. No, they’ll say, there are people who are truly suffering from inequality.
But fact is, I do understand. I’ve seen much worse than what happened at Charlottesville. Frankly, you have too, if only you will look as long and as hard at the faces of your friends and neighbors as you do the CNN newsfeed.
And my good friend understands. He lived for three years with people in Malawi who don’t have water to drink. There, mothers see their children die as often as we see our power go out.
No one marches for them. No one’s outraged about that. But Charlottesville? We love it. #charlottesville
I’m no better than anyone else. I hardly ever think about those kids in Malawi, sick and on their way to dying soon. But this isn’t about me. It’s something much bigger than me, and I hope you can see that.
Try to see the good in people. Don’t reward evildoers. And definitely don’t stir up anxiety and fear on purpose.
Some people have a hard enough time getting through the day, yet alone hearing about how they really do need to worry about racists coming to kill them, too.
I’m not “white,” but I don’t care. Never have. I don’t fear anyone at Charlottesville. Would gladly have been there this weekend, to tell people to go home and shut up.
But if there’s anything here I do fear, it’s the slow decay of our ability to look other people in the eyes and love them. To knock on our neighbor’s door to say hello. To find some purpose, any purpose, outside of events like this — little anecdotes that “validate” the precious little narratives that give us just enough purpose to feel ok about ourselves (even if not most of the time) and to not have to check up on the old lady next door every so often (because we’re busy raising awareness online about terrible stuff, right?).
Get a life. I mean that almost literally. Go do something else. Don’t bring Charlottesville to your friends and neighbors, most of whom have other, more pressing stuff to worry about. Don’t be complicit in forcing these sentiments onto everyone you know. It doesn’t help. It serves no higher purpose.
We’re just bored. We need to find other ways to use our free time. We need to take what’s going on in our own families, our own minds, our own bodies, as seriously as we take what that guy on TV keeps saying.