Today I make this commitment; this is my promise, to you, my brothers and sisters, elders and youth:
Every day, I will do at least one thing that makes my heart race with fear, that requires me to be brave to do it anyway, one or more thing that exposes racism, religious intolerance, sexism or injustice. One or more thing that speaks up and speaks out for compassion and empathy and understanding. Every day that others in our world have to be afraid and brave just to live, just to practice their beliefs, just to have the color of skin they were born with, just to keep their homes safe, just to go out in public, just to have clean water to drink and a future with hope to show their children.
Yesterday I started, with calling representatives--for some that may not be scary, for some of us it is. Today I put on my pink Pussyhat and went to the farm store. Many farmers in rural Oregon are very intolerant, xenophobic, and sexist. I felt shaky and scared, exposed and vulnerable. I had thought through my possible scenarios for how to deal with it if I am confronted when I wear this and/or my Black Lives Matter shirt in public. This is my plan: If someone says something rude, I will say "Could we have a civil conversation, without insults? I think if I could explain to you what this hat (shirt) means, what it stands for, you might not feel so threatened by it." Then if they agree to converse I will explain something like this: "It means I stand for compassion. It means I stand for equal rights. It does not mean I want to take away your rights or your choices on how you want to live, it means I want to be able to have rights and choices for how I want to live. "
I want to be able to explain and use logic. Could they understand that, on the issue of Life, there are many many people who believe that Animals are as important as Humans? Whether they are or not cannot be proven, it is an opinion and a belief, and a judgement. Many of these people believe it so strongly that they choose not to eat meat, seeing this as a crime against Life (I myself eat meat because I feel it is a natural part of being an animal, however I have great compassion and also still think animals are as important as me. I know I am just another animal, just a very complex one. I know animals have consciousness and feelings. I eat meat and feel I pay a moral price for it, a price that comes from, and with, painful understanding). How would people who think abortion is a crime against Life feel if those people made it illegal for them to eat meat? That wouldn't be fair or equitable, because everyone should have the right to practice their beliefs and to not have others' beliefs imposed upon them.
I have a feeling that the people who are intolerant feel threatened. They have been fed propaganda increasing their fear. They think by giving others equal rights their rights will be taken away. Their "way of life" changed. None of the demands we are making for equal rights are demands for others to lose their rights. No one is telling them they must marry the same sex, they must have abortions, they must become Muslim or Buddhist. We are demanding that the greedy ultra rich must not keep their hold on the power, keep corruption in the government, must not keep feeding propaganda to the masses of semi- or hope-to-be privileged, must not keep fear and hatred alive in order to turn the fearful into hateful mean intolerant armies.
To get back to today, I was in public with my pussyhat and I got some dirty looks. In the parking lot a man went by and insulted me, but he wouldn't stop to converse when I asked him to. After the farm store, at another store with generally more liberal people, I had some positive interactions, especially with another woman wearing a pussyhat. I shared with her my experience and approach and it helped. I am more interested in reaching the "other side" than the people who agree with me, but we do need to give each other solidarity and support. Just not isolate ourselves in those circles, though.
The experience also makes me think about how ridiculously naive I have been, and how wimpy I am now, too, when I get just a tiny fraction of a glimpse of how it must feel to be a woman wearing a hijab in public here now, or a black or Native person in many places. I am so empathetic that I cry every day for all the pain and wrong-doing and lack of understanding in the world. I want us all to cry. I want us all to feel it.