Don’t Stop Listening.

Back when I was trying to have kids and suffering miscarriages, I found an online community of women going through their own struggles. We called it TTC – Trying To Conceive – although I only had one bad stretch with no conception, my struggle was with STAYING pregnant. Regardless – we found each other online and we were each other’s safety need. We connected over similar struggles and feelings and were able to talk about those things to each other in ways we couldn’t talk about with the people we saw every day. Most of us wrote online and many of use had people thanking us for telling our stories so that they could feel not alone.

The internet removes geography as a barrier to building relationships.

There’s a lot of trash talking about social media lately. How Facebook has made it too easy to share fake news and how we’re all falling victim to reading click-bait titles and then building news stories in our heads from it. We’re finding commenters on the fringe who echo our sentiments and feel empowered and emboldened even if that comment is racist and full of hate.

But…BUT…it is also because of social media that I laid down the “All Lives Matter” mantle VERY QUICKLY. I live very deep in middle class white America – and without social media, I might not hear the voices of the disenfranchised every day. I have about 30 spare minutes a day so I’m bound to how I can seek out new voices in my practical and physical life, but I scan twitter while I wait in line at the grocery story. I pull it up as I drink my coffee at 3:30am. I read it while I’m waiting to import photos at work. And I read threads like this that show me how many Muslims already feel like they’re being gathered into lists and being persecuted for their religion…long before the talk of building databases from DT. This is just ONE tweet from the thread:

This is a voice I would not have heard without Twitter. I am not in regular contact with Muslim friends to discuss politics. While our paths may cross here and there amidst the chaos of our lives, it would take awhile to build a relationship with someone to discuss such things; whereas Twitter allows me to hear these pained words from someone without having to deal with the awkward “relationship building” phase.

And these voices are now terrified that we’re normalizing things that DT is saying or doing. And I’m trying my best to keep those voices loud in my ears because – it is my opinion – complacency is going to be our biggest hurdle to jump over. As middle class white America realizes they probably don’t have anything to lose, they may opt to skip that meeting and catch up on Supergirl instead (I AM SO BEHIND). They may opt to scroll past that article asking to make calls to voice your outrage over the appointment of Steve Bannon because you’re at work and you can’t really get to it right now (I have a shared office) and so maybe later…only later never comes.

The Democratic voices we all love aren’t making things better:

Warren and Sanders are wrong, and in a way that signals a significant misreading of the landscape on the part of the most influential Democrats. The simple truth is that Trump’s use of explicit racism—his deliberate attempt to incite Americans against different groups of nonwhites—was integral to his campaign. It was part and parcel of his “populism” and told a larger story: that either at home or abroad, foreigners and their “globalist” allies were cheating the American worker, defined as a white working-class man with a factory job. To claw back the dominion he once enjoyed—to “make America great again”—Trump promised protectionism and “law and order.” He promised to deport immigrants, register Muslims, and build new infrastructure. This wasn’t “populism”; it was white populism. Writes historian Nell Irvin Painter for the New York Times: “This time the white men in charge will not simply happen to be white; they will be governing as white, as taking America back, back to before multiculturalism.” source

So it’s really important we stay connected to the voices reminding us why we still need to be outraged. Why we need to show up. Why we need to make calls. So that we don’t become complacent and so that we don’t put this on the back burner while we cook our white middle class family dinner and watch that sitcom that makes sure to cast minorities but still feels very white and homogenous.

And that’s what social media is good for. I am still reveling in my echo chamber so that the voices in my feed that are still reminding us to fight, are loud and proud and not being drowned out by the pulls to get back to normal. I was going to my first official gathering of Democrats last night (which I have many mixed emotions about) and I was so tired (still am) and kinda didn’t want to talk to people or look at people and kinda wanted to curl up in my bed and drink 14 beers block out the world.

Instead, I put the kids in the car and we went there together. I saw many familiar faces who are doing what I’m doing and trying to find the path to resistance and change and all of those people came after a long day and were lulled by complacency too, but we were there. And we have to keep showing up so we can remember what we’re up against. This group last night filled the area and while there was some snark by older members (“If this many people showed up before maybe he wouldn’t have won…” STOP BEING SELF-RIGHTEOUS, PEOPLE.) most of the group was like me…first-timer, new, ready to jump into a group poised for action.

But we have to keep hearing the voices. We have to keep letting them make us uncomfortable. We have to keep listening…REALLY LISTENING…to their truths as they tell them. And we have to use the power our privilege has given us to right wrongs, and not settle into quiet complacency on our couch while our neighbors shout for our help just a few blocks away. And while there’s power in empathizing for the left behind former middle class who tend to vote for conservative economics, we have to recognize that – at least in my circle – those voices are getting amplified. I’m in a very educated conservative pocket of the state where everyone has read “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” but no one has seen The 13th documentary. My internet circle has voices talking about The 13th every day, but not my geographic circle. Maybe the vote surprised you, but it didn’t surprise me. And it’s the pockets like mine where the minority and disabled voices so desperately need to be amplified – but we can’t amplify them if we’re not listening to them first.

2 Comments

  • Mary

    That documentary was eye-opening and hard to watch. I am in the same age category as you are, and I remember the “Just Say No” campaign and promising over and over again not to do drugs. But I did not consider the ramifications behind the message (because I was like seven). I know differently now.

  • Lindsey

    Thanks for the recommendation Kim. I watched the documentary yesterday, and found myself gasping and covering my mouth at many of the stories and images. Quite an eye opener.