Embarrassed

I’m always embarrassed when I look at my old writing. Like week-old relics from the past from the times when I was a horrible writer. Except, it was a week ago.

It’s so strange. Maybe I’m just too judgmental. I am incredibly judgmental of other people’s writing and I hardly ever like what anyone else writes. In my head I just think that I could do better. I mean, I’m reading Jane Eyre right now and I don’t think I could write better than Charlotte Bronte. She’s like, primo. But everyone else on the internet, floating around posting our opinions… I feel like none of us are very substantial writers. And maybe that’s the point.

Maybe the point is that we’re practicing. My mom is a writer. She worked for a newspaper before I blessssed her life and she quit her job to take care of me. She told me something she was told on the job – her boss said, pointing to people in the office, writing (on typewriters!) “look around. He was a business major. She was accounting. He was teaching. Don’t get a degree in writing. If you have a gift in writing, then you have a gift in writing. Just get educated about what you want to write about. That’s the real preparation.”

Maybe that’s why I get so heavy on the people who are putting their efforts into internet blogging… Because all of us are basically doing the same thing. Writing about a subject that we know more about than anyone else. Ourselves.

Our generation – we don’t generally research culture and ideology to write informed pieces on whatever. We write our heated opinions. Or more typically, in Christian circles, our experiences and thoughts on God. Not that this is wrong. I was listening to Grace, Eventually by Anne Lammott, the first Christian author in whose writings I’ve indulged, and I noticed a pit of frustration turning over in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out why – I liked her writing style before – was it her voice, listening to her on tape? No, I liked her voice… What is it?

I pondered this for a while and then I realized. What she’s writing about! She’s literally just writing about herself! Her experiences as a liberal Christian with pro-choice ideology, a ski trip with her son, the time she binge ate apple fritters and ice cream from a gas station – they’re all just about… her! Not that I would claim that she is not knowledgeable, because I’m sure she is, but for some reason she chose to simply write about herself. Curious. And a little infuriating. Does she really think that just writing all these little blurbs of her life down into a book will impact anybody? A little arrogant, honestly.

But then I remembered, oh. It did impact me. When I read her book the first time, it deeply impacted me. I was a bright eyed new believer very confused about how my liberal ideals and past life could fit in to the virginal, well-behaved culture with no cussing I was dipping my toes into. And my mentor Chris handed me Traveling Mercies. And it was nice to know that I was not alone in the struggle. That there was a women named Anne Lamott out there with a background like mine, with struggles like mine, with thoughts like mine. And I know many a liberal Atheistic convert to Christianity has found solace in the words of Anne Lamott, simply speaking of her life.

So that’s cool. Once I remembered all of this I realized that sharing our lives with each other can make us all feel a little less alone. Books can be great mentors and friends, and can speak to us if we let them. Blogs, I suppose, can do the same. And there is no shortage of experience that needs to be written about, since practically every experience can be related to – and the ones that can’t, we can most definitely learn from.

At some point, if we’re going to be serious writers, we should probably read hard books – classics, to expand our vocabulary, think new things and discover new ways of writing. I mean, seriously, if all of your vocab comes from the internet, what you write might be kind of bland. When I stepped into the before-mentioned Jane Eyre for the first time and had to look up every other word – and realized the deep, beautiful imagery she used to describe a bedroom – and how incredibly she could define wood – my writing was put to shame. It’s good to be humbled in the face of genius. And I’ve realized my writing is kind of bland, and my vocabulary is extremely limited. Eventually this will limit what I can write about and how I can speak.

And then, of course, if we’re going to write about things specific – racial issues, culture, feminism, Christianity, it will be highly important to learn the history of these very real sections of the past (and present.) I’m regularly ashamed of how little I know of American History. Just reading and learning everything you can is important.

But until then, or if you don’t have time, just write. Write to get better, write to share your experiences. If you’ve got the writing bug then probably one of your purposes on this earth is to write. It will make you feel good and hopefully impact other people. We all need someone to relate to. The internet (and honesty!) make this more possible than ever. I’m certainly embarrassed 10 minutes after I post something, but I’m gonna probably just leave it there. Who knows who needs to read the ramblings of a confused, rambling 22 year old from Michigan.

It isn’t about you.

Dear White People. Don’t make this about you.

In the midst of an uprising of immense evil in our country, I urge you – I beg you – please, please do not make this about you. I scrolled through my facebook today, of course. Because of an internal urge to grieve and agree with those who are posting about black lives and black violence, and to disagree and hiss at those who were posting otherwise. As I scrolled, my insides began to burn with greater and greater reactive fuming rage. On the one hand, powerful were the were posts from black men and women and sympathetic white individuals, but especially black men and women, speaking of fear and anger mostly, and of pain. They ignited in me permeating feelings of fear, anger and deep empathy. Every post declaring that all lives matter and perhaps unknowingly downplaying the significance of the brutal shootings of black men and women by police officers made my insides squirm with absolute disgust and bitter hate. Anger jostled in my brain. It punched me in the gut. Anger because the fact is, that black people can be brutally murdered on a regular basis and yet we downplay it to the point of absolute zero, and remind everyone to not focus too much on black people – even though black people are the ones getting shot. Honestly, if a bully pushes down a kid with less power on the playground, a teacher should not run up and say, “yes, Junior, you were hurt, but remember – you both matter.” Yes, they do both matter. But we tend to the injured first.

Now that that’s out of the way, and I hope and pray that something in what I write could change someone’s mind – let me note that what was said previous is not the point of my post. I am quite white, was raised in an almost entirely white town, and a white family, with white friends. I have had little exposure to black people in my life. 98% of my Facebook friends are white. That’s why I’ve gotta write. This is all I’ve got. An ability to call out to the hundreds of facebook friends that I do have. To ask, plead, beg, for you – all of you – to please not make this about you. Preaching all lives matter is a form of not making this about black people – which this is. It really is about black people. They’re the majority of the ones getting shot with no cause, so lets agree that the vast majority is about them. Now – my fear as I was scrolling through facebook was that we as white people would not only take it this far. It’s one thing to suck away at the attention that black people deserve in the midst of mass violence against their race. This is wrong, it is despicable. It is inhumane. But what I fear of white people, us, being the social media junkies that we are, is that we will take this phenomenon of race and riots and make it about us. What I mean is, because this may soon be the trendy thing to post, tweet, instagram about, we may feel compelled to post tweet about black lives matter to be accepted by our culture – to up our facebook cred – to gain the title of “activist” or ally and then be able to move about our business. This is my cry out to you, my white facebook friends. Please – please, when you are posting about black lives matter, when you are commenting on a subjcet that is so painstakingly important and crucial, in ways that are beyond us, higher than us, and more devastating than we understand – please do not make this about you. Do not make being a #blacklivesmatter supporter about you, for your gain.
Let the fuel behind your clicks be the injustice of the situation, not the exposure you will receive. For this is the entire point of the movement. That yes, white people are important – okay, but can we focus on black people for a second? Because some despicable stuff is going down currently and if we don’t all band together and start praying, caring, sympathizing, talking, protesting, then this injustice is never going to change. What we are fighting for is a culture where a black person can walk down the street and not feel fear of violence, and where a white person can walk down the street and be seen as no different than a black person, in terms of value, intelligence, significance, worth. Does that cover everything? Because if you are jumping on this movement to be validated, please. Do not jump off. We need you. We need everyone we can get. But I urge you to take your eyes and put them first on God and then on black people. Stare this crisis in the face,
stare these shootings in the face, stare God Himself in the face and then realize that this is so beyond being about you. This is so beyond being relevant. This is so so beyond being cool on social media. This is about them. This is about humanity and justice. This is about peace and hope. This is about love.

Right now, love is being mocked, ridiculed, spit on and ultimately destroyed. We live in a country where a portion of the population cannot feel the security of having a police force that works for them. In fact, they must fear the opposite. This is love set ablaze. We must burn back. We must be the tide that pushes against the fires of injustice and inequality. Even if this means giving up rights, giving up privilege, giving up security. This is what’s at stake when you post to support the people in peril. This is what’s at stake when you say you want to join forces with the oppressed. Get ready for it. Help in any way you can. The only thing I can think to do, right now, is write. I can write, I have a voice, I have a limited audience. But I will use what I have. And I urge others – use what you have. If you have any sort of influence on social media – instagram, tumblr, whatever – write about this. Start a conversation. The biggest impacts we will probably have are on those around us, educating
and informing each other about the major issue that people must be convinced cannot be overlooked. White people, we have the biggest influence on white people that exists. Next time you’re with a friend, share the videos of men getting shot and then talk about it. Share the testimonies of black women who are weeping because they have decided not to have children, for fear of bringing more black children into a dangerous world. Pray. Of course, pray. Think. Try to attempt to imagine what it might be like to not feel safer walking by a police station, to have images rush in your mind of people of your color getting shot when you are pulled over, to be looked at like a thug when you’re just a college student wearing a hoodie at night. Try to fathom it. And look at them. Look to them – look to black people for their opinions, their hearts, their hurts, their fears. Read articles written by them. Listen to black celebrities. Care about anyone else right now but yourself, because blacklivesmatter isn’t to be relevant. This is real. And we need all hands
on deck.
It isn’t. About you.

P.S. – My heart goes out to the victims of the Dallas shootings as well. It just wasn’t mentioned because it wasn’t the subject I was covering.