Nov 28

Privilege and Balance

It is a mark of privilege that I have been struggling since the election.

I’ve come to some conclusions since then – just three weeks ago – that I’d like to share with you. Mother Teresa quote

  1. Everyone’s response is unique. Everyone’s response is valid.
  2. Your emotional response and mine might be very different, or might be just barely off from each other. Sometimes I think it’s harder to understand each other when the emotions are close but not quite matching. It’s like the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit into the jigsaw puzzle where you think it should. Trying to make someone else change their response doesn’t work; trying to change your own emotional response to match someone else’s doesn’t work particularly well either – nor should you feel that you have to.

    That said…

  3. Yes, I could change my response. I chose not to.
  4. I have tools, thanks to Avatar and meditation, to adjust the intensity of my emotional response. I could have completely neutralized my response or switched it completely to the opposite emotion, if I wanted. I couldn’t explain initially why that didn’t feel right to me, but I eventually reached that understanding. You see, what I was experiencing – beyond shock and grief – was an intense vulnerability. I felt uncomfortable going to the grocery store, feeling that – in “Trump’s America” – I was going to be randomly grabbed by men who suddenly felt empowered and validated in their misogyny. And I realized that for many MANY people, this is a vulnerability they feel EVERY DAY. I had the blessing of experiencing it for just one afternoon. It was a blessing to me, because it gave me insight into that visceral level of distrust and ‘need to do it anyway’ that I can otherwise only get to in imagination. That feeling of not being safe: I imagine that it is one small piece of what people feel when they have been sexually assaulted, when they are wearing a hijab, when they are black men, and they know that they have to leave their houses and deal with the outside world. It is a sense of not knowing who is safe to trust, and who might turn on you in any given moment. It is a mark of privilege that I experienced this for just one afternoon.


  5. The concept of “spiritual shadow” does not negate the need for advocacy. Or …
    Action on the spiritual / energy plane is not mutually exclusive with action on the physical plane.
  6. I heard and read from a number of spiritual teachers that Trump’s rise to power was not something to fear or rail against. It is a natural surfacing of the shadow side we have. We are consciously working toward a more just and equal society, and so it is the opposite of that – the shadow – that will rise to the surface in order for us to own it and integrate it. If we resist it, it will persist and even grow. I don’t disagree with this.


    We live in two interconnected planes of existence. Simplified, let’s say the spiritual / energy plane and the physical plane. It’s all well and good to talk about shadow sides and energy – and I have and will. If a Muslim woman is standing next to me on the T, and some …person… decides to physically accost her, it is unlikely that me saying to her or the person “wow, this is a manifestation of the shadow side, how interesting” is going to be useful. In contrast, there are many action steps that could be helpful. Similarly, sending love and energy of peace to the water protectors in North Dakota might be helpful on one level; sending them needed supplies and calling the White House and my senators to strongly request action on their behalf might be helpful on the physical plane.

    Mother Teresa said at one point that she would not attend an anti-war rally, but she would attend a peace rally. We can note that – yes – she was focusing on the positive, on what she wants to manifest, rather than on the negative. We can also note that she was willing to act outwardly, not just pray or focus on her inner reaction.


  7. The safety pin (or anything else) can be an outward and inner symbol.
  8. You are probably aware that shortly after the election, there was a call for people to start wearing a safety pin on their clothes. It was meant as a show of solidarity with vulnerable people, a symbol telling people looking at you that you are a safe person – safe to talk to, someone to walk with, someone who would not be judging you for your race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Then within a week a counter-message began, saying that people who disagreed with the message of inclusion were beginning to wear the safety pin, hoping to lull vulnerable people into a false sense of security before preying on them in some way.

    By the time the pin was being questioned, I had been wearing mine for a few days, and I realized that – for me – the pin was more than an outward sign. Yes, it would be good if someone in need of help was able to notice my pin and come ask me. More than that, though, was the importance of how I felt when I put the pin on each morning. To me, it had become a reminder of what I could NO LONGER be. Yes, I had my privilege of white skin. No, I no longer had the option of being a bystander. Bystanders are just as dangerous as offenders, because they are more powerful. Bystanders come as a group; rarely is there just one. Yet, just one can turn the tide of an event. Bystanders can cheer on or ignore an offense; either way, they are saying that it is fine. Bystanders can also stand up to injustice and say, in words or actions, this is not fine. When I put on my safety pin in the morning, I am telling the world that I am a source of safety for anyone feeling vulnerable, and I am telling myself that it is my duty to stand up or step in wherever an advocate could be helpful.


What has been your experience?


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