Is it becoming hardened to the world? Is that what’s happened? Is it ok? Is it a good thing? Does it need to be addressed?
I went to see the movie “The Hate You Give” a couple weeks ago. A woman I knew was there with a friend of hers and their teenage kids. The adults were talking about how one of the kids had absolutely devoured the book and questioning how they’d respond to the movie. The kids loved the movie. They also seemed to have the power to take it in as both normal and fiction. I found myself questioning whether I could have done that in the same nonchalant way when I was their age. I suspect not. I’m guessing I would have been troubled. Though I do kind of wonder about their power. After all, I was busy being troubled by many things as a teenager that I had no words for, but they looked at ease.
Then I look at myself. My work hosted a discussion last night on the prevention of sexual violence and sex trafficking. We had a good room full of people and excellent facilitators. They shared some powerful research about what’s happening in Minnesota. I found myself looking about the room at all the students and other community members and wondering “how many here have been affected?” but not really feeling.
This isn’t new. I’ve been doing community organizing in one form or another for nearly 30 years now. There was a time when discussions like that of last night would have sent me off in anger to organize, to take part in a rally, to do something. Now, sometimes I just sit and reflect and don’t feel the anger or the sadness or maybe I do, it’s just deeper where I don’t see it.
I still do work. It looks different. I spend a lot of time with college students asking them how they’ve been sustaining themselves. I measure the invitations to get involved in local efforts and choose the ones that I believe will build community while addressing issues of concern.
You know it does frighten me that I or those teenagers can look at any form of violence and see it as part of the place and time in which we live and not be at least a bit angry, heartbroken, and fearful. We deserve better.
Hardening is a form of protecting self, but isn’t softening that as well? How can we be both soft and pliable and strong to face the painful realities? That’s the ongoing question. I keep working for an answer.