I marched through the streets, my fist in the air, chanting three phrases through my mask on Saturday.
>> No justice, no peace; no racist police.
>> Black lives matter.
>> Say his name: George Floyd.
I sent my mom a video. She sent one back to me.
My mother and I think differently on many political matters. These days, it takes much of what we have in us not to get into an argument about COVID, or about the President, or about pretty much anything else having to do with the future of this country.
But while I found some semblance of a voice (I’m still working on making it louder) in college, my mother has long struggled to feel safe in using her own; in expressing her views. She’s not attended protests and has often been nervous about my participation in a few.
So when a few weeks ago she went to a small local gathering, arguing that her small town be reopened, I was proud. I let her know that.
I was apprehensive about the idea of reopening; I’ve maintained a more cautious way of life where I live. I let her know that, too.
When, a couple of weeks ago, she posted on Facebook that she’d be sharing her views more often, and that it was her hope that people who think differently than her would remain her friends, I was proud of her then, too.
And, when I received her video from a rally calling for the reopening of the state of Washington on Saturday, again, I was proud.
Sad, but proud.
Worried, but proud.
Fearful, but proud.
I know there’ll be a party of folks who read this and become outraged by this idea—disgusted by the thought that I might support my mother in what some may feel is a threat to both my mother’s and others’ lives (especially those minorities disproportionately affected by COVID)—particularly when the United States is on fire amidst riots in response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many who went before them.
Let me tell you, I’m often saddened by mine and my mother’s differing political priorities and views. As a firm believer that we should all want to wear masks and put each other’s health first, I’m sad that my at-risk mom would risk exposing herself and others to potential contagion to reopen her town and her state. It scares and saddens me.
But you know what also scares and saddens me? People not standing up for what they believe in.
People who silence themselves for fear of retribution, being shunned from their groups, losing their jobs. Or their lives.
That’s why I went to my march.
That’s why my mom went to hers.
See, my mother fears our nation’s freedoms being taken away. She is angry that we the people (as a whole, in this nation) are led by people who, in her opinion, are not leaders, but crooks and cowards. She is disgusted when she looks at a future if things don’t change; if things don’t become more balanced; if the powers-that-be continue unchecked in this country.
I fear our nation’s freedoms remaining an illusion for many. I am angry that we the people (as a whole, in his nation) are led by people who, in my opinion, are not leaders, but dictators and thieves and—as in the case of the officers who killed George Floyd—murderers or accomplices to it. I am disgusted when I look at a future if things do not change, if things don’t become more balanced, and if the powers-that-be continue unchecked in this country.
This country was founded on permitting different views. It was founded on permitting the freedom to have and express those views.
When I look around, I see so many voices being silenced, and that to me is bone chillingly terrifying. I see calls for silencing speech from our President (not my President); I see calls to silence speech from those trying to shut down the President; I see media being silenced by arrest. I see restrictions we’ve never had before (many for great reason, some not).
And it seems to me almost as if we are in one of those funnels used to demonstrate the function of a black hole. We toss a coin in and watch it spin and spin and spin; down, down, and further down, until finally it is gone.
And that is our freedom if we (almost any of us) continue to donate the coins of our voices to that void through the act of silence—gone.
We need to use our voices to cry out for what we wish not to grieve.
We need to use our voices to fight for a worthy cause.
We must use our voices to speak—heatedly at times—with each other.
We must talk and argue and be uncomfortable with each other as we hear the ugly, hard, and unexpected truths of others’ existences if only to come to a point that we agree to disagree and come out knowing at least a little more about the plight of another human, or group of human beings.
And if that is the case, we must also use our voices to say that we are sorry, or to admit that we cannot understand; to say, “I stand with you.”
Even if standing with them means only supporting their right to stand at all.
For if we do not use our voices to do at least that, our country—our freedoms—are lost.