The Pressure of Proximity

Why is it that we always feel so much more obligated to become involved with an issue when it is right in front of us? Even when we know the same scenario could be happening anywhere at any given time, when it is in our vicinity, there is an added sense of duty to intervene. I believe this is even something that philosophers throughout history have pondered without there ever being a clear or concise explanation.

On my way to work this morning, once again, I was forced to observe for the third time, these pro-fetal lifers as I passed through an intersection. I have seen them standing there three times now. The first time I was so shocked, I didn’t really get a chance to be angry. The second time, my blood was boiling as I saw the original man had enlisted the help of some woman. This third (and I pray final) time, after my initial spike in blood pressure, I was able to calm myself down enough to consider why it was that this demonstration always makes me so violently angry. I still haven’t really been able to come up with a satisfying reason for why that is the case.

I know that there are anti-abortion people all over this god forsaken country. But for the majority of my life, I don’t pay much attention to them. Even hearing about the new abortion restrictions in Texas, while saddening and disturbing, didn’t give me the same visceral reaction. There is some type of strange mental disassociation when viewing an issue from a distance rather than in our own backyards.

Another example would be animal neglect. I know that there are millions of animals in terrible conditions right now, a lot of which are probably not more than walking distance from where I am now. Yet I don’t really think about it or feel compelled to go out and save them (even though I wish I could.) However, when my sister and I stumbled upon a starving, half-dead kitten on the side of the road a few years ago, we immediately rushed it to the vet and spent $50 only to have it put to sleep when the veterinarian told us they couldn’t save it.

I am guessing this distinction has something to do with the fact that in the past, we really wouldn’t have had any knowledge or ability to intervene in situations that were far away from us. Yet with the rapid advancements we’ve made in technology, I could make a significant difference for people and animals that are suffering across the world if I really tried. And I’m not really sure which way is the best when it comes to this strange phenomenon of personal responsibility.

Part of me wants to use this inconsistency to remind myself that just because I see an affront to decency and humanity in my home town, doesn’t make me any more responsible to change it than I am responsible to fight for civil rights in other countries. Then on the other hand, I wonder if proximity to a problem does hold more weight when it comes to personal duty. To a certain extent, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the universe has presented these problems to me as a sign that I am supposed to do something. Another part of me questions whether what I’m supposed “to do” is practice surrender and letting go. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to exercise my anger management.

Yet another problem is wondering what there really is to do that would make a positive impact. Perhaps it would be more effective for us to act only on problems we have some distance from. At least then we may be more capable of responding with a level head. I’m sure doing a fundraiser for the Planned Parenthoods struggling in Texas would be more helpful than pulling over and arguing with those nut jobs I’ve seen on the corner.

Ultimately, while I’m grateful for all of the activists working hard to push society in the right direction, I don’t feel much like participating anymore. At only 28 years old, I am already so tired and jaded. It feels selfish, but I just don’t know if it’s worth it to keep fighting at this point. In the past my attempts at activism seemed to do more harm then good. I may or may not have positively impacted the causes I fought for, but I certainly negatively impacted my own mental health. Perhaps it’s a greater service to society for me to just take care of myself and be an example of what I’d like to see in the world.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s out of your own personal desire to do so rather than simply your proximity to the issue. I used to feel the weight of this self-imposed duty around my neck like heavy chains. I would often ruin my own day by getting into fights with people on Facebook about politics, religion, or animal rights just because I saw someone say something ignorant and felt I had to respond. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” While I still believe it is noble and righteous to stand up for what you believe in, there must be somewhere we draw the line in order to protect our own personal well being.

As far as I’m concerned at this point in my life, the world is crumbling around us. There are so many issues I am passionate about. I have such little influence and such an easily overwhelmed nature. This is the one and only life that I am going to get. Though it may sound selfish or insensitive toward all of the other beings who are suffering right now, I just want to enjoy the small portion of existence that is mine without inflicting a constant state of anger and strife onto myself. Especially when I genuinely believe the changes I want to fight for will take longer to accomplish than we have left as a species on this dying planet. For the time being, I am choosing personal peace over the pressure of proximity.

How To Accept Responsibility For Your Life (7 No-Nonsense Tips)

Non-Binary Bigotry

More and more people are beginning to identify as non-binary. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, it just means that you don’t strongly identify as either a man or a woman. You identify as you and that’s all. Gen Z, and millennials to a lesser degree, are the primary generations that are expressing this new identity category. While I do know older people and baby boomers that are respectful and accepting of this neutral gender expression, the majority seem to be personally offended by it for some reason.

In high school, I was crestfallen to discover that so many of my liberal friends were uncomfortable with bi-racial dating. Now once again I am finding out that concepts I thought were openly accepted by all my political allies, are not accepted nearly as much as I had assumed. I am also learning that people that define themselves as “liberal” are not nearly as liberal as I am. Honestly, I would consider them moderates at best.

In the few years that I’ve worked at my child advocacy center, we have met a lot of kids that have expressed that they identify as non-binary. For me this is just valuable information so that I can make an effort to make them more comfortable. However, it always seems to be a point of contention for basically all of my coworkers. Whether or not they claim to even believe non-binary is a thing, they all seem to disregard a child’s wish to be identified as such. It hurts my heart so much to hear people that have literally just met this child act as though they know who they are more than the child themselves. I mean, sure, there are probably a percentage that are just confused and still working to figure themselves out, but how is that anyone else’s business? Our job isn’t to decide what gender a child should identify as. Our job is to be loving and supportive and respect whatever they decide, wholeheartedly and without judgment.

I’ve been thinking about this issue even more recently because we happen to have a non-binary intern at our sister office. Upon finding this out, I was rather excited. I have never had a non-binary friend and I was eager to get a chance to practice using they/them pronouns and be an ally for them. I was even more excited yesterday when I found out that they were going to be transferring the rest of their internship to our office. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized just how uncomfortable that would make basically all of my coworkers who I had assumed would be kind and inclusive.

My boomer friend at work, whom I love dearly, immediately started cracking hurtful jokes about them. Even though I know he isn’t coming from a place of hate, he was still being alarmingly inconsiderate and offensive. He was laughing, calling them an “it”, and saying that he would just refer to them as their actual name every single time rather than using they/them pronouns. Even our therapist and other intern who are much closer in age to me seemed just as disturbed to share our office with them. We do a secret Santa every year and our primary intern was petrified to discover that she had pulled the name of our non-binary intern. (Why that is, I genuinely have no idea. It’s not like these gifts would be gendered anyway, and we make a list of things we like to help whoever pulls our name.) I quickly realized that it was going to be solely up to me to help them feel welcomed, respected, and understood. I plan on offering to switch with our intern for secret Santa if that would make her more comfortable.

I cannot express how sad it makes me to consider how hard it must be to be a non-binary person even today, especially in my small, rural, conservative area. I’ll never understand why people feel so burdened by interacting with these people. Literally all that is required of you is to try to use they/them instead of she/her or he/him. Why is that so hard? It irritates me even more that these people who complain about it don’t seem to ever consider just how difficult it is for the non-binary person. Oh poor you, you have to alternate ONE SINGLE WORD, whereas they have to be misunderstood, excluded, targeted, and disrespected literally everywhere they go just for being honest about who they are.

Maybe it’s just because I am so used to being the misunderstood weirdo, but I am more than happy to make accommodations for others. I’m also quite familiar with having to deal with people making “harmless” jokes about core aspects of my identity and expecting me to just smile and take it, lest I be considered “uptight.” For all of these reasons and many more, I am honored to consider myself an ally to all those who need social support. I know how awful it is to have to decide whether you want to be untruthful about who you are or be criticized for it.

Even after two years of working at this office, my coworkers are all unaware how many times they have openly made fun of or dismissed aspects of my identity that I haven’t shared. Each time they make comments about people who are pansexual, polyamorous, or atheist, I am reminded why it is unsafe to fully disclose who I am to most people. They also consistently make comments about “when I have children” despite me openly saying I don’t plan on having children many times. Each time this happens, I am that much more reluctant to ever mention I’ve had my tubes tied. God only knows how they would react to learning that, even though it does not affect them at all.

So many people will openly share their disdain or disregard for different types of people without even stopping to consider that they don’t know everything about the personal lives of the audience they are sharing these opinions with. And maybe that’s another reason I feel such a strong sense on kinship with other social outliers. In their presence I feel safe enough to be my full self. And I am eager to offer them that same sense of acceptance and comfort, which I know is so rare.

At the end of the day, we are all just human beings who deserve dignity and respect. That is what we should remember above all else. Even if you are someone who doesn’t understand, accept, or support these newly expressed identities, at the very least you can try to keep your opinions and judgments about it to yourself. I’m not asking everyone to like it or accept it. All I’m asking is for people to be decent to other people whether you understand them or not. Yet I am constantly reminded that even that is too much to ask.

Scotland Will Legally Recognize Non-Binary Gender Markers - The Pride LA