I don’t want to believe the statement above. I don’t want to believe that I have been naïve for most of my life. That I have had faith in the wrong place. That I have trusted in vain. It goes beyond my pride. I don’t want to believe this because, if this is the root of who we are as a global society, I have no idea how we fix that.
If this is at the foundation of who we are, where do we go from there?
I have been chewing on this concept for a about a week. I was sitting in a presentation about the opioid epidemic. The presenter shared the number of overdoes related deaths in the state of North Dakota and explained why they happen.
I am a fixer and so I wondered, why do we allow this to happen? Why can’t we get this number to zero? Is that too radical? The presenter talked about how important and effective clean needle exchange programs are. He also talked about how they have a bad reputation. I rolled my eyes in frustration, having seen the spikes of new HIV infections in the rural south over the last few years. Clean needle exchange programs easily prevent one epidemic from becoming another. I thought harshly about those who would oppose these programs. The argument of course being that by providing clean needles you are encouraging drug use. I wanted to yell at these people, Get over yourself. People are going to do drugs. How might our world be better to live in, if we simply made them all legal. We could regulate them like we do alcohol and cigarettes. Why not?
I want the number of overdose deaths to go to 0. I value human life. It’s something you can’t get back. EVER. Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to prevent death? I don’t get it.
This presentation started the questioning for me. When faced with new information I drill down till I hit the foundation. I ask, Why? Over and over and over and over and over and over and over…until I get to an answer.
As this process was going on in the background of my mind several things in the news kept finding their way into my Facebook feed. I avoided them for a while. I didn’t want to think about these women’s names. I didn’t want to think about their pain. I didn’t want to bear witness to their experience.
Friday was when I couldn’t avoid any longer. One of my dear friends was aghast at what she was seeing. I didn’t want to respond without having more information. So, I started watching and reading more about Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience.
I watched a sitting US Senator cower in an elevator. I have learned to try to make sure I see the whole video. I want to make sure I’m being fair to all sides before jumping to indignation. Watching more I only saw a man with two women by his side show nearly no vulnerability or compassion. A woman wept before him and demanded answers. She demanded he look her in the eye.
I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to represent an entire state. It’s not a job I would ever want. This is the job he signed up for and yet he and the two women with him seemed to show nothing but preformed sympathy. I am making an assumption here. Maybe all he could offer was “Thank You.”1 Maybe in the face of their truth in that elevator in that moment he didn’t want his job anymore. Maybe he didn’t want to bear witness either. Maybe…
Seeing other news headlines in my feed, I noticed something. My friends, who seem to feel that Dr. Blasey Ford should have brought this up at a more convenient time or that Senator Feinstein is playing political games, didn’t engage directly with Dr. Blasey Ford’s story. Maybe they too didn’t feel they could bear witness to her truth. Maybe…
In the case of these friends and the creators of the content they shared, I couldn’t understand how they could comment about the proceeding without even recognizing her. Without so much as acknowledging Dr. Blasey Ford. It felt like they were walking into a crime scene and talking about the scenery outside of the yellow tape.
I don’t understand. I don’t understand. It doesn’t compute. Nothing makes sense.
Then news came in the search for justice for Savanna. I haven’t done research. I don’t know or fully understand the nuances of this case. All I know is that a beautiful Native woman was brutally murdered. Another one. She is another one. She is a reminder that the bodies of women and Native women in particular don’t matter.
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women movement to me seems an echo. I think of the pink crosses. All the pink crosses that broke my heart in college. Each representing a woman or girl killed within Latin America. All of them part of the near pandemic of femicides committed within the region most notably in the country of Mexico.
Our bodies don’t matter. Our lives don’t matter. Remembering Savanna forced me to think of Olivia. Another woman. Another one. I force myself to say their names.
We must say their names. We must bear witness to their lives and their brutal deaths. I don’t think we get to look away. I don’t get to look away.
When we look away it is too easy to lie. It’s too easy to be naïve. It’s too easy to say I’m different.
I am a part of a living breathing society that does not and willfully chooses not to value human life. We cut corners that put workers in danger, we refuse to pass legislation to protect our children from gun violence, we literally take money from our elders and give it to billionaire CEO’s, we accept that I have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing physical or sexual violence in my lifetime.
I am a beautiful Native and African American woman. My people are dying. Black women and babies are dying. Native women are being murdered and going missing. Every day a woman is raped, a child is forced into a marriage, human beings are sold, tyrants hold countries captive, atrocities happen.
So many amazing people are trying to change things. So many good people are doing nothing. So many of us are too comfortable. So many of us refuse to bear witness to the things that take away that comfort.
I don’t think it’s an option for me anymore. I can’t keep doing this. I refuse to leave this world to the next generation as a place where overdose deaths are the norm, sexual assault is not that serious and when dead brown bodies show up it doesn’t matter.
I am limited. I wish I wasn’t and that I could save everyone, but that’s not my work. I am still trying to figure out what that work might be. Right here as I write this I am going to commit that moving forward I am not going to look away anymore. I don’t get that privilege, I don’t get that comfort, not anymore. That comfort is preventing me from doing the work. That comfort is preventing me from doing the one thing I can do. I can look the truth of these women in the eye and bear witness to it. To say, “…I don’t know who you are but I love you.”2
I love you Dr. Blasey Ford
I love you Savanna
I love you Olivia
I love you
- Moore, Alan. V For Vendetta. Illustrated by David Lloyd, DC Comics, 2005.