\”I can\’t say I blame you…\” I trail off a bit. My heart is heavy and I feel defeated. There is no defense I can conjure, no fight I can muster. Just straight up resignation and a weak affirmation that I understand why she is doing this: why my friend is leaving the country and moving to Canada, away from me and far far away from Texas.
You see my friend is married to another woman who happens to be a black immigrant and given the political environment of the country and the hostile environment here in the south, they increasingly do not feel safe. Queer, woman, black, immigrant. I cannot say I blame them for not feeling safe here. Everyday we hear about new violence incited against these populations. In our own country (the land of the free?), people are having to decide whether living here is dangerous for them, if they will be killed for who they are or where they come from or what they believe. And I can\’t blame them. The rhetoric of Donald Trump is downright terrifying, but what is worse is all the support he has managed to get. People are angry. People are afraid. People are desperate. The writing is on the wall. Today it starts as some words, an idea about a wall, an idea about deportation and a call for registration of religious minorities. What does tomorrow look like? Hitler didn\’t start his regime with the killing of billions.
I feel like the government has failed us. Special interest groups have sought to push agendas forward without supplying resources to properly deal with their changes. In a jarring irony, my own workplace, was forced by the legislature to institute Campus Carry (allowing guns on campus, albeit mostly not by choice ) on the same day it remembered the tragic mass shooting that occurred 50 years ago. As if that isn\’t concerning enough, students often must wait weeks for basic mental health services due to the understaffing of Texas college counseling centers. We can spend a lifetime tracking down the various reasons why this is the case and I could no doubt get into heated arguments with others about the ideal solution to these problems, but the fact remains that our lawmakers are essentially encouraging the presence of guns while simultaneously not funding us enough to mitigate the risk of mentally unstable individuals that may bring a gun to campus. Just think about that for a moment. Doesn\’t that sound like a recipe for disaster.
Every election season you hear futile claims that if so-and-so wins \”I\’m just going to move to Canada!\” Now I actually know someone who is actually doing it, because she is afraid. She is afraid of having her rights taken away. She is afraid of being a victim of needless violence. She is afraid that she / her wife will be persecuted. And I don\’t blame her one iota for having those fears. I fear those things too, although not nearly to the degree, because I have institutionally assumed heterosexual and white privilege.
Which brings me to another aspect of all this. My privilege and how to navigate through the world while both being aware that I have privilege that is often beyond my control (due to who I happen to be) and being empathic to those who were not granted those privileges based on what is often beyond their control (due to who they happen to be). I worry about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. I have noticed myself going out of my way to distance myself from entities that are not known for being tolerant. \”Yes, I may identify as being Catholic, but I\’m not one of those Catholics. Here, let me show you how tolerant and accepting I am by being enraged by those who are not\”. The truth is I want to help, but I don\’t know how to help. I don\’t want my friend to live in fear for her safety, but I have no idea how to help her feel safe in the hostile world. I want to stop police officers from shooting unarmed black men, but I have no idea how to begin to change that situation as I am neither a black man or a cop. The sheer number of social issues I want to change is overwhelming and I really don\’t know how I can actually help. It leaves me feeling helpless and defeated.
In my desire for self-improvement, I have a list of habits that I try and keep on my radar every single day: getting 10,000 steps, eating mindfully, learning Spanish in Duolingo, taking 1 photograph, etc. I was encouraged to add a \”for the sake of\” clause in order to give my self-work a larger purpose than just me; a why-the-heck-am-I-doing-this-again clause. It took my a long time to figure out something that really resonated with me, but amid all this world craziness, I have come up with a sort of mantra. I am taking care of myself for the sake of all those who can\’t. For the sake of all those who suffer systemic oppression. For the sake of those who have no voice. For the sake of those who have limited prospects. Maybe I can\’t \”do anything about the atrocities I see\” but I can at least try and make my little world a little bit better and hopefully that is something.