The Things That Matter
This post is going to be a little different. Typically we like to reserve this blog as a space for positivity, creativity, and expression because those things are very important to us. We love pretty clothes and yummy food, and art and literature and entertainment. But today we feel inclined to talk about a few things that are more important. We hope that you’ll read along, share in our reflection, and let us know your thoughts – because we’re all still learning.
This is important.
Right now I’m watching a live stream of a town under siege. Men dressed in fatigues and carrying assault rifles approach a group of protestors who sit on the ground chanting “What do we want? Justice!” and “We are peaceful! Don’t shoot!” Suddenly sirens blare and (rubber) shots fire, and the streets fill with toxic tear gas. People scream and run despite the protestors’ attempts to hold the line.
It sounds like a scene from a war movie. But those men aren’t terrorists or soldiers. They’re police in Ferguson, Missouri. And they’re not fighting to defend their safety or their constitutional rights. They’re fighting for the right to shoot unarmed young men without accountability, consequences, or justice.
This past Saturday, 18 year old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer for walking in the middle of the street. According to witnesses, he was shot multiple times after holding his hands in the air, complying with orders, and telling police that he was unarmed.
“As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.
We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.
We shouldn’t have to explain why even though Mike Brown’s life didn’t matter to you or a Ferguson police officer, it mattered to someone.
We shouldn’t have to explain that the punishment for even the most heinous crimes in our country is not a public execution without a trial.
We shouldn’t have to explain why we deserve the same protections and rights afforded to every other citizen of America.
But maybe you can help with some other questions I have, because I am at a loss.
Can you explain why Mike Brown was gunned down in the street while James Eagan Holmes, who killed twelve people and injured 70 others after opening fire in a movie theater, was escorted into a squad car? Can you explain why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is still alive but Mike Brown isn’t?
Can you explain why Mike Brown’s body was left uncovered in the middle of the street for hours for any reason other than to send a message to his community?
Can you explain why a black man is killed by the police every 28 hours in this country?
Can you explain why media outlets reporting on his death used the photo of Mike Brown on the left instead of the right?
Better yet, can you explain any of that to Mike Brown’s mother?
Racial privilege in this country is real. And it’s important. And it’s all of our responsibility stop this.
This is important.
The loss of a great talent (RIP Robin Williams) has spread through the media like wildfire, leaving in its wake both touching demonstrations of human support, and a call to action against the silent killer that takes so many lives before their time. But it also brought a wave of reactions that were unkind, unfortunate, and misinformed. Many called suicide a “stupid” and “selfish” choice.
If you haven’t read the insightful post by Tom Clempson that went viral shortly after the news, I encourage you to do so. It’s powerful and important, and this brief excerpt from it demonstrates why those reactions were so far off.
When people die from cancer, their cause of death can be various horrible things – seizure, stroke, pneumonia – and when someone dies after battling cancer, and people ask “How did they die?” You never hear anyone say “pulmonary embolism”, the answer is always “cancer.” A Pulmonary Embolism can be the final cause of death with some cancers, but when a friend of mine died from cancer, he died from cancer. That was it. And when I asked my wife what Robin Williams died from, she, very wisely, replied “Depression.”
Just as a Pulmonary Embolism is a fatal symptom of cancer, suicide is a fatal symptom of Depression. Depression is an illness, not a choice of lifestyle. You can’t just “cheer up” with depression, just as you can’t choose not to have cancer. When someone commits suicide as a result of Depression, they die from Depression – an illness that kills millions each year.
Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression. It wasn’t his choice to suffer that.
Depression doesn’t need a root in reality. It’s not about a lack of love or support, or any concrete and changeable factor in someone’s day to day life. We don’t know enough to understand how to make it better, but here are a few things we can do:
Pressure our government to invest in mental health research. Seek to understand what depression is, and how our friends and family might be suffering. Do not place the responsibility with the victim. Offer your support as a lifeline for those who might be suffering – there might not be anything you can say to help, but you can be present and available. Share, openly and often, your local Suicide Prevention number (Here in the US you can call 1-800-273-8255 for support).
This is important.
This is difficult to write. Anyone who knows us personally knows that we’re very strongly and very personally passionate about feminism and abolishing rape culture. And for anyone who might not understand what that means, this story should make it clear. In 2012 a young girl from Steubenville, OH (about 1 hour and 45 minutes from our home) was undressed and sexually assaulted by her peers, who took pictures and shared them across social media.
One of those peers was welcomed back with open arms to the Steubenville football team this week.
We shouldn’t have to point out that students are declared ineligible for athletic teams when they fall below a C average or miss too many practices, but are apparently considered eligible after brutally violating the body and spirit of another human.
We shouldn’t have to point out that the physical and emotional trauma will be a life sentence for the victim. A life that might have otherwise never known violence will now forever be shadowed by it. But the perpetrator of that violence is now free to be celebrated again.
We shouldn’t have to point out that some things are more important than sports. One of those things NEEDS to be teaching young people the value of human decency, and the serious repercussions of lacking it.
We don’t presume to define feminism for anyone else, but this is what it means to us – things like this should never happen. Ever.
We know this post was long and sad and infuriating. But sometimes life is that way, and what good is this blog if we can’t talk about what really matters? I hope you’ll share your thoughts with us in the comments below, whether you agree or disagree, or know of another tragic or happy bit of news that should have our attention. We’re all still learning.