I’ve been hearing people over and over again these past few weeks say they don’t know what to do. My answer to them is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to show up.
Over the past few years, I forced myself to look at a reality in front of me to find that I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t believe in the type of society my country was trying to create, the same one that I had spent two years defending through my military service.
And then I kept it to myself for another three years because I was terrified of being different. I was a lone soldier. I made my community and my society proud. I walked the line perfectly; I was liberal minded. I cared about other groups, but not so left-wing I made anyone uncomfortable. I focused on fighting for rights within my own community, because we and only we need it most, right? People don’t stop respecting you when you fight for your own rights, but let’s not inconvenience them by pointing out that the realization of my rights and recognition of my full humanity are intrinsically bound to the recognition and the fulfillment of the rights of others.
Giving that image up in the eyes of society was so incredibly difficult for me. I still look back and have moments of wishing I hadn’t. But then I witness something like a Palestinian sitting next to me, blindfolded and handcuffed (and had been for 24 hours) just for having fireworks in his car, and I realize that there is only one correct way to use my privilege, and that’s to bring its existence crashing down.
My immediate family wasn’t in the Holocaust, but I think about my grandfather, a Jew, who fought the Nazis. Ashkenazi Jews in America weren’t considered white back then, and I wonder what it felt like to be oppressed in America while fighting Nazis who were oppressing his people in Europe. Do you say thank you to America for being the better of the two or fuck you for still treating you awfully? How many purples hearts did we collectively receive in order to gain our status as white? How many people of color will be persecuted and killed in front of us before we are willing to give it up?
I think about my friend’s grandfather and those numbers on his arm. We the people are the only force between those numbers and the people who are targeted by them. We are the only thing standing between fascism and democracy.
There is no more waiting around. There is no more ‘I’m liberal, but I’m not political”. Yes, you are political, and when you say you aren’t, you are just saying “I make my political decision by standing on the side. I’m not inconvenienced enough by this reality to try and change it.”
It’s time to out yourself and show up. Yes, I’m talking to all of you who have whispered to me, private messaged me, and called me over the past few years to tell me that you identify with things I’ve said in public or in writing. Yesterday was the time to stand up, but now will do as well. Make it public and be counted.
I’ll be standing by your side.
*Photo: People resisting during the Warsaw uprising