Being Dismissive of People Who Don’t March (aka More Social Justice-y than You)

There’s a thing in social justice and activist communities that has now become a call-out culture thing that really bothers me. It’s the idea that if you’re not doing “X activist thing” that somehow you are not doing enough, or you don’t care about the subject of said activist thing, or that you are somehow complicit with the oppressors if you’re not making statements about everything that comes up.

I see this over and over in many communities:

  • Some activists in seminary thought other seminarians weren’t activist enough because they didn’t march on the streets during the Occupy movement. (or BLM or other marches, etc)
  • Some people in many different communities may think that I don’t care about certain topics because I don’t blog about them, or that Circle of Cerridwen doesn’t make a specific statement, or that we don’t send money, etc etc…
  • Because I pushed Bi issues in college, I wasn’t accepted by the local queer community that was heavily lesbian and gay. Even a lesbian professor, when I came out to her, refused to talk to me afterwards because I wasn’t for the “lesbian cause.” (I’m somewhat certain, though, that she was a TERF.)

In this, there is a certain idea that the person doing the calling out is somehow is superior to you because they have at least done something and you haven’t. Usually with the person doing the calling out not bothering to ask the person they’re calling out about what they actually do. (And gods help the person if they say that they “pray.”)

I feel like a broken record when I talk about this, but I get so many people who have said to me that they can’t do public activism for a variety of reasons: disabilities, mental health issues, financial issues, stamina, time, spoons, or their talents lie in other areas. Sometimes they fear that they will lose their jobs, or work for the government, or are in a situation where they could be in danger if they do public activism. There are also people who can’t go to protests because of the fear of being arrested. They either have medical issues the an extended lock up would complicate or make worse, or they have been arrested before, or have some legal or family issue that an arrest would make worse.

What I tell people when they ask me what they can do is that you do whatever you can, because at least it’s something. If you can pray, send energy, do magick, then that counts. If you can pass along information, sign petitions, write to your congress critter, then that counts. If you can order pizza to send to people who are marching or cook for them when they come home, then that counts. If all you can do is live your life, educate yourself, and try to be an example of a caring, loving, human being who treats everyone, to the best of your ability, as human beings, too, then that counts.

Are prayers, or writing, or any of these other things enough? Of course not. This is why we have a community of people with different talents. It’s amazing that there are those who can march with those doing the protests. Or that they can travel to places, or take the time off, or feel ok with the risk of being arrested. I’m glad that they can do that work.

But, to me, it’s another form of oppression being dismissive of people who are the support: the cooks, those who pray, the writers, the information disseminators, those who educate, those who are just aware and try to be an example of what’s good. To me, it’s like feminists being dismissive of stay-at-home moms (or dads), or lesbian and gay people telling bisexuals, transgender folks, asexuals, non-binary folks, etc that they somehow don’t belong in the queer community. Just because someone can’t do ALL THE SOCIAL JUSTICE THINGS doesn’t mean they don’t care, or aren’t doing anything at all.

Blessed be the supporters: may you know that even your smallest helpful things still counts as activism.

Fiction: Orlando (Revised)

I became blessed at that moment, or so I thought. The moment where time stood still. The moment where I knew everything had fallen down around me. The moment I was made.
It is the heart of what I became.
Whatever possessed me to take up the burden of this life, I will never know, but it was done, and now I cannot go back.
I can never go back.
I am the Earth’s servant. I bring Death and I exist nowhere.

Here is the scene:
The sand, cold underneath my feet. Quiet, everything quiet. The water pounding against the sand in rhythmic time. Slowly, the sky becomes lighter, the blue coming out of the blackness of night. Time moves again, and there is a sliver of light over the water. The orange brighter than any other light, hitting my eyes and making me squeeze my eyes shut in response.
I am awed by the first light of day. The morning.
Because I have not slept in a thousand years.
The sun rises while I am lost in thought, and the fire of it inflames me to more than just a spectator.
But I cannot move from here. I must watch it all. The coming, the dawning, the fire. I don’t exist here because this is how I am supposed to be. I sit until I start to burn.
The dead have no life, yet they revere it.

Later, now. Something calls to me. A memory, perhaps, of when I was alive. I remember touch and feeling. I do. But now, it is almost impossible to feel anything. I have existed too long in the shadows of life, only to be seen as something different. Something not to be loved. Something unclean. Unholy.
So I strive to find that holiness. That which makes me exist here hasn’t let me find it yet. The churches won’t let me in to feel it, either.

Then she came to me.
I didn’t know when I first saw her. It was while I was standing somewhere. I remember that. But she came up to me and asked me for something inane, like a cigarette. I remember telling her that it was bad for her.
She said she didn’t care. I think I loved her when she said that she didn’t.
She smoked, and watched the waves with me. Yes. That’s where we were: the beach. I was watching the sunset this time. I always did prefer the night to the day. In the daylight you are so exposed. People can see you, and I did not want that.
But she did it anyway, while I was sitting there contemplating more about life. I did that from time to time.
And then she asked me why I came here.
She said she had been watching me. She asked why I came here every night to watch the sun set. What is it, she asked, that made me come to the same spot every night.
I had no answer.
I told her that I was looking for the answers.
The answers aren’t found here every night, she told me. They are found in being with others.
Something broke loose at that point.
I left her staring at the waves, smoking her cigarette.

Picture it later now.
I am working for a protest group; making signs, hanging posters, sharing of myself, giving back to humanity what I have been taking from it. I protected them in the square at night when the cops try to take their tents.
But I still wasn’t happy.
I gave of myself so much that it hurt (I even fed for the cause) and still the answers didn’t come.
Where was my self?
This question disturbed me greatly. I had become lost in other people.
And then someone told me: Don’t be a hero. You need time for yourself.
I had had nothing but time.
I turned to them and told them I was leaving.
They watched me walk out the door and down the street.

Now?
I can see something else in the sunrise, when I watch it. There’s more to me than what is wanted of me. I exist nowhere except in my own soul, and that is how the universe will see me in the end. Timeless.
And the answers don’t come easy, but they are felt.
I took up this burden.
So I must live with it.

(This story was inspired by the film “Orlando” starring Tilda Swinton.)