These days, when people are alone, or feel a moment of boredom, they tend to reach for a device. In a movie theater, at a stop sign, at the checkout line at a supermarket and, yes, at a memorial service, reaching for a device becomes so natural that we start to forget that there is a reason, a good reason, to sit still with our thoughts: It does honor to what we are thinking about. It does honor to ourselves.
Life is hard, even when you’re a Christian. Even when you try to love God with all your heart, bad things will happen. Terrible things will come. And, this is the danger in telling each other God has a wonderful plan for your life. Because there are just too many moments and hours and days and weeks that don’t feel like a wonderful plan. They feel like an awful plan. They feel like a devastating plan. And, in those moments, the wonderful life idea just rings hollow. It makes us mad at God. It makes us resent Him and it leads us to believe that He was lying when He said, I have a wonderful plan for your life.
And they’re right. Things are better now. White people don’t own slaves in the United States. But this cousin of relief presents, to me, a sort of cognitive dissonance about the reality of racism in America. When white audiences see movies like The Help and The Butler and 12 Years a Slave—and indeed, when the vast majority of mainstream films featuring black people are movies like The Help and The Butler and 12 Years a Slave—and not films like Best Man Holiday, their perception of racism (and even blackness) is shaped in a way that lacks a wider context and an awareness of present-day racism. This is what racism looks like, white audiences come to believe: chains and lynchings and the American South. And while they’re not wrong, that understanding is stunted.
Sometimes this happens: We suffer a loss, it leaves a hole in our lives, and we think filling that hole with things will help us feel better. We’ve all learned a lot about what makes our lives full. It has been a complicated few months after a complicated year. Adopting our children’s older biological sister, who is 18, has stirred things up in the kids. More stories about their past are coming to the surface. They’re confused about roles, because once, she haphazardly played the part of their mother. But mostly, her arrival has brought to light how far our first four adopted children have come — how far we’ve all come. This year we made the decision to go small on presents. We bought them a few things they needed, and a few things they wanted, and those pesky holes we feel driven to fill with busyness and stuff, we’ll leave alone and let time take care of.
Actually, don’t trust me—that’s the entire point. We the media have betrayed your trust, and the general public has taken our self-sanctioned lowering of standards as tacit permission to lower their own. That may sound fatalistic, but I say this because I love the Internet, not because I hate it. No one is suggesting we need to drain all of the fun out of everything—diversions are a huge part of what make the vast teeming wonder of the web such a joy to behold. But there’s an infinite expanse of information about things that actually exist out there just waiting for us to share them. Why would we take that wealth for granted and resort to passing along things we know—or can easily find—to be false?
When you are 35 years old, you work from home, you don’t play an organized sport, have a best friend who broke up with you, don’t have time to volunteer or even regularly make it to synagogue, and spend almost 95% of your non-work time taking your children to various extra-curricular activities and working on a very exciting photography adventure, making friends is just not easy.
While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work. I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game. Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.
As an Asian American woman you’re told that you have to be smart and pretty to be heard. And you have to be exceptional, and of course people want us to be exceptional, so it was hard for me because I did struggle with math and science and I couldn’t live up to the ideals of what my sister could. So then I internalized that I had to be the pretty one and that I had to be the thin one and that became extra hard for me as I hit puberty and I wanted to hold onto it. I had an eating disorder for eight or nine years and the problem with that is that it really takes away a lot of potential. I was so distracted with controlling the way my body looked that I didn’t even get into political organizing, I didn’t ever have a voice because I was so consumed with controlling myself, so how could I empower other women?
As a mom over 40, I have a lot of regrets. I regret not doing this sooner, I regret not fully knowing how my body works and the complex issues that could arise as a result of waiting, I regret not knowing about options like freezing my eggs or even considering more seriously (even if it was for only a day) the idea of choosing to be childless. I regret, most of all, not traveling with my husband more before we arrived in lockdown central of a very scheduled and routine life — but that is the cost of putting love over motherhood, I waited for him, and he showed up when I turned 40. I regret not saving more money, and most of all, I regret not thinking about the fact that I will be in my 60s when my son goes to college. When we are gone, my husband and I deeply think about his being alone in the world, without a sibling and that we may not ever see him marry the love of his life. It weighs heavy every single day. I know I can’t speak for anyone else, but I regret waiting.
And so my question is this: What is it we think we’re accomplishing with our hashtags and our bullying and our shit-talking? Do we take Twitter feminism seriously in any way? Do we realize that this behaviour has nothing to do with movement-building? Do we recognize that, simply because we don’t completely agree with every single thing a person says or believes or because we don’t like every single person they tweet at or follow or retweet or don’t immediately attack on demand because it’s the bandwagon we’ve all been told to jump on, that it isn’t reasonable to vilify them? Do we realize that bullying people, calling them names, and encouraging your followers to join in isn’t actually activism?