Sunday, March 12, 2006
Enough Tears to Go Around...
While watching Angela Y. Davis speak on BookTV about the hunger strike deaths of over 120 prisoners in Turkey protesting the building of "American-style prisons," I thought of the way the word solidarity seems to have lost currency in American society. There is an isolationism which echoes the sociopathic focus on individual autonomy in the US. This atomizing consumer mentality has led us to view the nuclear family as the basic unit of society. Increasingly, even this unit isn't small enough for corporate purposes and the individual is encouraged to pursue their separate gratification, an isolated particle of desire and socially oblivious material lusts.
These thoughts were tied together when I went out to Jamnesty: Benefit Concert to Stop Violence Against Women at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Student Union. Some live music provided the soundtrack to a long row of tables staffed by various Amnesty International (AI) groups. I went down the line of tables, conscientiously reading and signing petitions to congresscritters, dictators, and others. I picked up factsheets about "Rape as a Tool of War," and on the conflict in Darfur. "Stop Violence Against Women in Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico" was the title of another. One table was collecting funds for Jane Doe, Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence; I put a few dollars in the box. I would have given more but no one was at the table and it makes me nervous to leave cash in an open and unattended donation box.
Like many people in the US, I am prone to compassion overload. Long litanies of "the evils that men do" induce in me a numb sense of disaster, of overwhelming hopelessness in the face of the myriad juggernauts of brutality. My mind retreats from these images and descriptions, insulating itself from caring any more. I become bewildered and depressed, confused and blank. So it was today. Yet I still thought about these things and pondered my ability to help these people who suffer, most of them far away from where I live.
There's a saying I think I picked up from Robert Heinlein, the Science Fiction writer, that goes something like this: "Happiness shared is doubled; pain shared is halved." This brings me back to the beginning: Solidarity. One reason I'm listing and including links to the items listed above is to provide a connection, a thread between me and those horribly victimized women and children. Despite my relatively safe and privileged life as a white male in the USA, I still feel empathy and compassion for the suffering of other people. I still desire an end to such vicious violence. I still see a clear connection between injustice in Mexico and Darfur and injustice in the US. I still believe in uniting in a common fight against all these dark forces of destruction, pain, and death. This belief still sustains and nourishes my soul.
I write things like this, hoping I (and others) might take away a bit of strength from it, a sense of shared purpose. I gather the threads, try to follow the connections and weave them together. I believe shared anger at injustice can change the world.