I don’t even know if I’m going to keep this post. I don’t know what I’m going to write.
I don’t know what I can write.
What can I write in so dysfunctional a world? What can I write to speak to my experience, my life, and what point is there in relating something so small to the enormity of our daily life?
The more I write for my LEVN blog, the more I feel like a fraud.
How can I value authenticity and write a fluff piece about how my view of my values has changed over the course of LEVN? I mean, sure, they have, and it’s useful for me to explore that and come to understand that more deeply.
But what is it to you?
What is it to the readers of a blog?
What do any of you want from us?
Do you want to peer into the lives of eight strangers attempting to live together and not just survive but “live in intentional, Christian community” with each other? Do you want to look through the window to see what we feel we learned? Do you look down and say, “Ah, youth,” to think and write as we do? Do you understand how keenly aware we are that what we write is not for us or for truth, but for show? Do you think, “They are used to social media, to baring their souls for anyone to happen upon”? Do you not understand that if social media has taught me nothing else, it has taught me to censor myself?
You think you peer in to see how things are here, but where are you? Do you really want to see?
Or deep down, do you know that what you want is to be shown a reason to do this, to support LEVN or the Belfry or however you came to this blog post? But the reason should not be found on a website, and it probably can’t be anyway. I mean, you will find things, you might find some things that draw you this way. But this isn’t the reason.
I went to the state fair with my boyfriend, and the end of the drive to the fair is only a few exits away from one of the work sites at LSS. I drive that stretch of freeway when I am driving from an abandoned church out of which the book business social enterprise operates to this other site, which has had a significant amount of difficulty, stress, and trauma in the past few months.
Just approaching that site on a weekend, not going in to work, not getting off at that exit, not even driving myself, was enough to bring my heart rate up, to tear down the thin veil barrier I’d managed to put up within myself, paper thin, but something. I curled up on the seat and cried. I put my feet back down, tried to breathe calmly, resting my arms on my legs, looking down at the floor of the car as I worked on the simple task of inhaling and exhaling. Have you ever felt your soul ache from grief?
I cried a bit, and I stared, just stared. The constricting, expanding flood of emotion trying to burst through my lungs, anguish and terror pulling my body back into itself, tense, muscles quivering from the effort.
Do you read of human trafficking within this country and think it a flight of fancy or clickbait, some overdramatic liberal bleeding hearts trying to wheedle some emotion out of you by going to extreme language designed to elicit your rage, sympathy, sorrow?
Some of you must. I know there are people who think this way, even people who are quite liberal themselves.
We are, none of us, exempt from the pride best used to convince ourselves we have no reason to have a personal stake in such and such matter. And we are all inculcated by a system which places an inordinate emphasis on personal responsibility, picking oneself up from one’s bootstraps.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Some of us are taught this differently than others. We see from a very young age that “boys will be boys” exemption from personal responsibility, but of course the responsibility doesn’t vanish, our need to place blame or find the culprit is no less strong for the weakening of men’s perceived self-control in matters of sex and violence. Instead, that responsibility passes on to the girls, to the women, or any gender victim. And we see also in current events, offshoots of the tree of racism nurtured over the centuries, and particularly in reactions to current events, the mechanisms that deflect responsibility from certain parties and place it on the victim.
Where I’m from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history.
A man’s called a traitor or liberator, a rich man’s a thief or philanthropist. Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist.
There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don’t exist.
~ from the Broadway show, Wicked ~
Every day, people are reminded directly or indirectly of what our place is and for whose actions we (by way of our breasts or our skin or our hair length or our clothes or our love) will receive responsibility, should the unthinkable happen.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Who benefits from calling rape, murder, terrorism through word, gaze, touch — who benefits from accepting the deflection of responsibility inherent in naming these daily horrors “unthinkable”?
Unthinkable? If you are able to conceive of these as something not to be thought of, you are a beneficiary. Because the so-called unthinkable things people do are ever on the mind and in the step, look, walk, stance of those who understand that the place to which we have been relegated in this society, in this world, is the place of the one who can be blamed for harm done to them/her/him.
The truth is that even if it could magically occur, merely discarding the machine of responsibility redirection, so that responsibility would go to whomever truly acted or created a situation in which it was acceptable to act in the horrible ways we currently place on the victim rather than perpetrator, this alone is not enough to bring us to truth and justice.
For us to reach that point, we all must learn what role we have had in this system. We must all see the intersecting system of isms for what it is, and see how our implicit or explicit support of any misconception or deception strengthens that system, empowers the grip and reach and terror that system is capable of distributing.
Sometimes in a philosophy class or book, they will ask, if you could know the entire truth of a situation, and see where the fault lies, would you support the death penalty? If we could see the entire truth, the entire web of interconnectivity that led to any event, we would see our part in it, intentional or unintentional, as well as the role of the perpetrator of the particular crime.
I think such knowledge would be an “unthinkable” burden. But I think, if we ever want truth and justice and safety and freedom, we must all commit to sacrifice our idol of personal inculpability for the sake of feeling the Christ-like compassion with our neighbors, true empathy not just sympathy. We take to heart the words of the confession, and let it fuel us for action all day, everyday.
God, we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole hearts: we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.
This is my fifth and final post written in preparation for submitting my final LEVN blog post. Previous posts, beginning with Pondering #LEVNlife and continuing to the three-part Processing Treasure consisted of an ongoing reflection of the ways in which LEVN has impacted the way that I perceive myself and my “top five” values. This post alone is what I will be submitting for LEVN.