Say Something

There is a stunning, almost Dali-esque dream sequence in Gilmore Girls in which Lorelai, after finding Luke wants some time to think about their relationship, finds him in the Black, White, and Read Movie Theater. There, the two watch a scene from their past, sitting at her kitchen table, Luke telling her he is "all in."

Lorelai just sits there, staring eerily into space.

The dream version of herself watching this movie version says, "Say something," then, more forcefully, "Say something!"

 

Copyright: 2016 Yancy Lael

Copyright: 2016 Yancy Lael

 

There's more to it (that blue ribbon…gives me the chills every time), but that's the basic story, and I often think of that scene whenever I witness a situation in which people stay silent even when silence is dangerous.

Say something!

I have written recently about how important it is that we think before we speak and that we don't litter the world with an endless stream of thoughts, words, and opinions. So often, we allow ourselves to default to reactionary behavior that ultimately doesn't help anyone or anything. We argue endlessly on social media, for instance, forgetting that our personal accounts are not actually public platforms, and that posting and sharing isn't a substitute for our civic duty as citizens of arguably the most vibrant, powerful democracy in the world.

However it's also important our intentional communication includes speaking out against what threatens our country, our lives, and, ultimately, the state of the world. We need to communicate this not just to the people who make and protect our laws, but to those in our immediate vicinity. Our children need to see us lay down a firm boundary.

 

::It is not okay to persecute (in any way, even subtle ones) a whole group of people just because of their religion.

::It is not okay to hold the highest office in the nation and to use that position to spread blatant lies, generate suspicion of the media, and promote family businesses.

::It is not okay to silence a woman (two women, if you think about it) on the senate floor, based the selective enforcement of an obscure rule that doesn't appear to apply to male senators. That is absolutely NOT OKAY.

::It is not okay that the leader of the free world has publicly made incredibly sexist and misogynistic comments about women on multiple occasions and has never addressed that or apologized.

 

I find myself perplexed these days, watching very carefully what is and is not being said. I see a lot of backlash from the left, predictably, on social media, in the news, and even in my everyday observations out in the world.

Yet there is silence in places I didn't expect to find it. An almost deafening silence. I'm not sure where those voices are or why they are remaining silent.


So yes, we need to be careful with what we say, intentional, responsible, and compassionate. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't say anything, at all. Now, like never before, we need to speak.

Say something.

How Facebook Reminded Me of My Civic Duty

I am so fascinated by the way we express ourselves on social media – why we post certain links, why we share certain opinions. There is no more fascinating time to study than the years of presidential elections. On Facebook and Twitter, in particular, we endure month after month of political rant from our friends and family, as well as the in-your-face memes and articles that circulate.

There are times when many of us have to step away from the fray to keep our tempers even and our hearts clear. I, myself, took a week-long Facebook sabbatical after the election, and I have friends who closed their accounts, altogether, in an attempt to escape the vitriolic political conflict.

Image credit: Christopher Burns, Creative Commons Zero License

Image credit: Christopher Burns, Creative Commons Zero License

When I finally returned to Facebook, I found myself in a state of amused curiosity, particularly whenever I was tempted to share a political article or opinion.

Why am I doing this? I’d ask myself (something I think we should always ask ourselves every time we post something to social media). And come to think of it, why is anyone doing this?

As lacking privacy as it can be, an individual Facebook account (as opposed to a business or public figure account) is not a public forum.

Our Facebook-posted opinions, in general, don’t affect change. The links we share are not going to change anyone’s minds, nor are they going to improve the state of the union.

What’s really happening is that we’re turning the microcosm of Facebook into the illusion of a public forum. We’re bombarding our friends, relatives, and schoolmates (and whoever else is on our friend list) with opinions they already know we have. And then we argue about it, sometimes quite aggressively.

It’s so important that we are thoughtful and intentional with our words and opinions. I’m not suggesting that we should silence ourselves or cease expressing ourselves on social media platforms. It’s our right and privilege as Americans to speak up. But we also need to be clear about why we are speaking, for what purpose, and to what end. And we need to remember the diversity of our people, which requires us to create a balance between speaking up and listening.

We also need to stop being lazy citizens who use social media to meet our quota for civic action. If we want to see change, we have to engage where it counts – and that isn’t on Facebook.

What if, instead of posting incisive political links on Facebook, we did something like this:

·         Write to or call your senators and representatives. If you’re going to take the time to write a political rant on Facebook, why not make it more useful and send that rant to your senators, instead? Just be sure to make it respectful and succinct – your words will get a lot farther that way!

·         Volunteer at an organization that is working toward the kind of social, environmental, or political change you want to support. Don’t wait around for lawmakers to make this country better. Get in there and do the work.

·         Align your spending with your values. Support businesses that you believe in. Donate money to non-profit agencies, politicians, and causes that you want to support.

·         Write editorials. If you have a lot of opinions and really love sharing them, there’s no better way than the editorial. Don’t just stick with local papers, either – branch out to national publications both online and in print.

·         Organize an event. The Women’s March was a huge wake-up call for many of us. The people of America are still engaged. They still care. This is not the politically and socially apathetic country we have been accused of being. Hundreds of thousands of people took a precious weekend out of their lives to stand up for what they believe in. If you felt an alignment with the movement, organize follow-up events in your own community. If you felt it didn’t represent you at all, start your own march.

·         Create beauty. This may sound unimportant, but we need to create the beauty in the world that we want to see. Share beautiful pictures. Write beautiful blog posts. Go out of your way to thank people you wouldn’t normally thank. Turn your Twitter feed into poetry. Spread beauty wherever you go.

 

We cannot afford to be lazy or thoughtless about our political and social beliefs. We must strive for action in unity – and we cannot achieve that by spouting Facebook and Twitter rants that drive wedges between us and do nothing to create sustainable change.

It is long past time now to be thoughtful and intentional with every word that passes our lips and every word we share online. We can’t wait for the media to change. We can’t wait for politicians to change. We have to be the ones to hold the front line. It has to start with us.

And if we want to see change, we have to realize that all our sharing, linking, and commenting on social media is not going to accomplish that goal. Only focused, deliberate action will get us to that point. And if we’re not willing to put in that effort and participate in this democracy, then we really don’t have the right to comment on it, at all.

Let’s take our own oath of office right now, as Conscious and Conscientious Citizens of the United States:

I will think before I post.

I will use social media as a method to unite with my fellow citizens, not as a tool for conflict.

I will spend as much time taking genuine political action as I spend sharing my political opinions on social media.

So help me God(dess).

 

Intentional Words, Intentional Action

It is a noisy world out there. These days, it’s noisier than ever. I find myself both addicted to and repelled by social media. I want to see what’s going on, what people are saying and sharing, but I also feel like I’m going to come out of my skin listening to all the squawking (including the squawking in my own head).

I’ve noticed that I’m feeling compelled to share everything on Facebook. If I see an article about something I like or something that’s upsetting me, I feel such a pull to hit ‘share’ and post it along with my opinion. I have to remind myself over and over again that the Facebook contacts on my personal page (friends, family members, and colleagues) already know my opinion. It won’t surprise them or enlighten them to hear that I’m against the Dakota Access Pipeline, for instance. And as for my Author Page, it’s important for me to respect the people who are supporting my work by not cluttering their feed with endless links – I’m sure they’re seeing enough of that from their own friends and family.

I’ve also noticed there are interesting parallels between the social media world and the White House right now. There’s a lot of noise over there, too. A lot of overlapping voices. A lot of words whose truth, meaning, and/or consequences are, as yet, unclear. A lot of anger and defensiveness. A lot of squawking.

We are all storytellers, whether we are writers or not, and we’re all trying to tell our story the loudest.

Unfortunately, the noise is making us all a little antsy. A little louder than usual. And more prone to reactionary storytelling than we should be. Just like on Facebook, we’re randomly spewing ‘shares’ and opinions even to those who already know our opinions. Even to those who don’t care about our opinions. Even to those who don’t need to know our opinions.

My time on social media is pushing me to be more intentional with what I put out into the world. I don’t want to contribute to the noise. I want to create and protect beauty with my words.

The truth is, my friends and family, for the most part, don’t need to wade through a stream of shares and opinions from me. They already know me. Sharing these things isn’t going to change anyone’s mind if they disagree. And it’s not going to change the situation I’m squawking about, either.

While I’ve found it important to share my feelings about political issues from time to time, for the most part, I’m trying to be more intentional with my voice. I’m writing to my representatives. I’m working on editorials. I’m weaving my thoughts and feelings into my work as a fiction writer and a feminist artist.

Photo copyright: C. Martin, 2015

Photo copyright: C. Martin, 2015

I ask myself these questions over and over:

What am I hoping to gain by sharing this?

What are my intentions in sharing this?

Is this going to protect the beauty of the world or create more of it?

I think it’s important for us all to go deep and get very clear about our intentions whenever we speak, write, or communicate in any way. There’s been a lot of change and the world is a little topsy-turvy right now. We have to right ourselves before we can start getting clear about who we are and where we want to go. That’s going to require a little silence which means we’re all going to have to learn how to cut out own unnecessary noise.

Now the big challenge for me is implementing this in my personal conversations. In general, I’m doing pretty well, but I have to admit, with my very small inner circle, there’s a lot of squawking going on. I’m going to have to start thinking about the relationships in my inner circle as a social media feed. Then I can start asking myself whether or not I really need to share what I’m sharing.

In the meantime, I, like so many, am navigating my way through this dark forest by the light of my lantern. One step at a time. And as intentional as I can remind myself to be.