I often struggle between being true to myself and wanting to fit in a little better, get along with others a little better, go with the flow a little more. It’s easier the second way, you know? People like you more. You get invited to stuff. You’re chill. Laid back. Easy to be around. For me, it’s a lot like going to sleep.
The problem with radical individualism is that even if people like you, they like you from a distance. You’re cool, but unapproachable. Unrelatable. Why do you have to dress like that? Why do you do your hair that way? Why do you correct people’s pronoun use when they call you a girl? Can’t you just relax?
Somewhere along the line it became inappropriate to discuss things about which you have a strong opinion. Er, why wouldn’t you talk about these things? Social cues? What? None of it makes a bit of sense. “Look, the expression on her face means she doesn’t want to talk about bullying. It makes her uncomfortable.” Yeah, I can tell. Sometimes we have to be uncomfortable.
I get a lot of, why do you have to mention global warming every time you see a truck spewing black exhaust? Why do you have to stand up for that person when you know you’ll go down in flames too? Why do you have to point out tiny social injustices when you see them happening at school, on the street, in the store? There’s a time and place, Jessie. Be cooler. Be easier. Let it go.
This brings me around to my inspiration for this post today. I watched Clint Smith’s video MEMOIR today. You should watch it. Seriously, before you read the rest of this.
Aside from being a powerful spoken word poem about the messed up immigration policy in this country, it really begs the question, why are Americans a number before they’re a face? Why are Americans Americans before they’re people? When did being born a hundred miles south turn me from an upstanding American citizen with a nine-digit number and a bright future, to a no-good, brown-skinned, unAmerican wetback? What do I have that Maria doesn’t?
“Well, yeah, I get it. It’s a real bummer that kids have to be punished for their parents breaking the law, but we have to draw the line somewhere. Where’s the line, Jessie?”
That’s a good question. Drive down to the border and you’ll see a fence, patrol cars, dogs and guns, but you won’t see a line. You tell me where the line is. The line is arbitrary. The line is a social fabrication to divide us from one another.
“Us from one another? No, it’s dividing us from them.”
Us. All of us. Human beings. We are one species on one planet with limited resources and a really fucked up system. We should care about each other. It shouldn’t make a difference to you whether a family is living in poverty in Mexico or next door to your house. (And if you’re saying to yourself, “It wouldn’t make a difference. If a poor, struggling family lived next door to my house, I wouldn’t do anything about that either. I’m not going to stick my nose in. Their family, their problems,” then we have an ENTIRELY BIGGER PROBLEM.)
It comes down to this: you should care. Society tells you you shouldn’t. It tells you those people are other, somehow less valuable. Your help is really just enabling. Really, it’s us or them. Put the mask over your own face first.
Because it’s easier to think that way. Caring hurts. I get it. It’s not easy to see or comprehend. It’s not cool what government does to people, what people do to each other, and feeling like anything you do won’t really help anyway.
Here’s what you can do: CARE. Say something. Make waves. Don’t shut up. Don’t make it easy.
If enough people make an internal change, the world has to follow suit.