How Long Does It Take?

Phelan M. Ebenhack—AP

Phelan M. Ebenhack—AP

I’m so tired. I’m so sad. The same terrible things keep happening to the same people, to different people, to MY people. I want to be positive, I try to stay hopeful, but for every wonderful story I feel like I read 5 stories of violence and hatred and just pure ignorance. When are things going to reach the tipping point? Or are we just going to destroy ourselves out of existence?

Sometimes I feel bad, because I’m just not capable of crusading and fighting on the front lines like so many of my friends are. I can’t read the news every day. I can barely check Facebook. I want to be stronger, to be more resilient, but it’s hard enough to keep my inner sadness and anxiety at bay without adding in politics, mass shootings, racism, and all the things I’m supposed to be yelling about. Is this part of getting older? Does it all accrete like the mercury that’s apparently filling the fish we eat, does each exposure increase the reaction like my shellfish allergy until a single bite leaves me sick for a day?
I want to be angry but I’m tired. So tired. I’ve been angry about this for so long. I’ve written the words. I’ve shared experiences, educated the uninformed, and made mindful choices. I’ve learned from my mistakes and helped others to learn from theirs. But what’s the point? Is it getting any better? I’ve believed in movements and hashtags and leaders, but everything disappoints. Every fave will eventually be problematic. Eventually I just don’t want to hear it. There’s a saying about ignorance for a reason.

Sometimes, I feel like a coward for running away to Korea. If you care so much about these issues in the US, why don’t you go home and fight for them? My mom even straight up asked me why I’m spending my time teaching Korean kids when the kids back home need teachers too. HYDRA really is the perfect villain for a modern fantasy; for every injustice or world problem we begin to right, a thousand more appear to take the place. This will always be the case, and I’m sick of being criticized for not talking about the “important” issues, for not fighting the “right” fights.

I’m sick of all these false equivalency arguments. If you’ve ever looked at the internet or spoken to a human, I’m sure you’ve encountered them. For your reading pleasure, I will recreate one here:

Person A: Wow, I really hate how women in the US are slut-shamed for wearing short skirts.
Person B: Well at least you don’t live in a totalitarian regime where you’re forced to dress like a prisoner!
Person A: Um…yes?

Even better are the accusations of calling attention to causes that aren’t “important enough,” whatever that means.

Person A: Check out this article about teenage girls getting sent home from school for stupid dress code violations!
Person B: I can’t believe we’re so upset about this when there are people dying in [insert country] and no one is talking about it!!?!

People are dying EVERYWHERE. Bad things are happening EVERYWHERE. None of us is capable of caring about every single cause at the same level, and shaming people for trying to bring attention to what is important to them is just mean. If someone tells you they are bleeding, do you tell them that someone else is bleeding more, or do you give them a bandage?

I’m writing all this in the wake of the horrible tragedy in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub, but these feelings are nothing new. This is just the most recent tragedy. I’m not here to talk about gun rights or the US’s lack of response to mass shootings. Other people have done that better than I ever could. I’m just here because I’m tired and sad I want to feel like someone is listening.

There are two main sentence structures I’m teaching my students this week, and seeing them on the board was rather poignant today. Or heartbreaking. The first is “What’s up? You look upset.” Yes, I am upset. I’m upset that the media is refusing to accept that the shooting in Orlando was fueled by homophobia. I’m upset that even after so many mass shootings we haven’t done anything. I’m upset about the underlying political corruption that allowed that to happen. I’m upset and I’m angry and scared.

The other sentence, which struck me even harder, was “How long does it take?” How long does it take, America, before you realize that you have a problem? How long does it take for things to change? How long before we stop allowing children and parents and friends be killed for the crime of living?

How long?

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