I originally wrote this post back in the summer during the heated moments leading up to dramatic Senate vote on healthcare. I tucked it away in my drafts folder and thought "not now". Sometimes that's how writing is. I'm too close or too emotionally involved or too defensive to know if my words are coming from a good and healthy place. So I file them away and think "maybe one day I'll be able to use these". In light of everything going on with the NFL, this post popped up in my mind and I think it's a great time to share it.
Every now and then I see somebody on Facebook making the plea for people to stop talking about politics. "Facebook is a place for you to share what's going on in your life" they say. "It's a place to post pictures of your kids and talk about your vacation" they plead. It's not a place to talk about politics. But there is no "right place" to talk about the things that matter deeply to you, that affect the most important parts of your life.
As a middle class, educated white woman, I have a lot of freedoms that allow me to live as if politics can be put in a box, placed on a shelf, and forgotten about until it's convenient for me to pick it back up. I can choose not to think about political things whenever I feel like it because very little of what I do is politicized. More often than not, I have the power to live, speak, think, and act how I choose without being denied the access, protections, and freedoms to do so. But not everyone has this same level of freedom. Things only become "not political" when they don't directly affect us and we can check out and act like they aren't happening without concern for how the outcome will affect our lives.
This recently came to life for me over the healthcare debate. As a parent to a child with a disability, I can't not think about health care. I obsess over whether my son will have access to adequate health care. I worry that after he meets a lifetime max that he won't be able to get treatment for something treatable because somebody in power decided his life was too expensive. I call senators, I cry about it, I think about it almost constantly, I go to protests, I talk about it incessantly to anyone who will listen- to my friends, at my job, on-line, over dinner. It feels like life or death to me. I feel like I am watching a group of powerful (mostly white men) decide whether my son will live or die. That may sound dramatic, but that's literally how it feels sometimes. And when an issue hits that close to home, you'll do anything to change it, to bring attention to it, to get people talking about it.
I will never know what it feels like to be part of a group that is routinely marginalized. I have only a glimpse of what it feels like to watch people in power decide what you can and can't do/have/be. I will never know what it feels like to approach every interaction with a police officer as if it is life or death. I will never know the fear of somebody threatening to take away my citizenship or keep my from seeing my family. I don't fear that I will be harmed for practicing my faith. I don't know what it's like to not be able to access adequate housing or food. But I do know that it's not my place to tell others how to feel or how to express themselves, especially when the issues are so important and hit so close to home. It's not my place to question their reality or lived experience. I have no business asking others to put their pain in a box, to stop making everything about politics, to express their hurt on my terms when it's convenient for me. It's my job to listen, to keep learning, to elevate their voices, and to do what I can to make it right.