I’ve Been Thinking About Human Rights Lately

Having grown up outside a small town in Idaho, everything that I knew about the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement came from history books, classrooms, and television. Honestly, I grew up thinking that it was all settled, dealt with, that it was history.

Clearly I was wrong.

Being gay, I have known for the past 25 years that I am at best a second class citizen. I believed that there was no real chance for that to change any time soon, but I wanted change and in a small way I worked for it. And I have always been grateful to those outside the gay community who made a point to demonstrate that they were working for me to have equal rights too.

This past year, the gay community has made some clear steps toward equal protection under the law in the United States. However, the fact that these steps have been taken on paper does not mean that we are done working on this.

Here is the reason that I’m writing this: realizing that the work is not done for gay people to have equal rights and protections under the law, I see that the work is not done for anyone really. The battles may appear done on paper, but now we have to acknowledge that the real site of this war is in our minds. As long as we fear that adding people other than ourselves to the family of those fully enfranchised in our culture, we are not done.

So I want to be an ally. Like the allies of the gay community that I admire, I know that I will sometimes make mistakes, that I will sometimes overstep. For several years I have considered myself to be a feminist. To many, that is itself an overstep. But there are enough others who appreciate my willingness to apply that label to myself that I feel it is defensible.

There have been times, recently, when I have wondered what, exactly I can do, to move all of the disenfranchised closer to equality. Today I have realized an answer. I can start by changing my mind. I can seek out and redirect racist, sexist, and bigoted thoughts. I can repudiate my acceptance of these thoughts and deliberately seek to have different ones. By making the inside of my head more equal and free, I will make my instinctive response to normative tyranny an utter rejection.

Is this enough? Probably not. There are, obviously, changes that have to happen in the world outside my mind. But the more clearly I understand how I have upheld the problem in the past, the more easily I will be able to recognize and enact remedy in the future.

Do you find it easier to empathize with happiness or sorrow?

Do you find it easier to empathize with happiness or sorrow?

Maybe it seems twisted, and I haven’t done a scientific study on it or anything, but I’m pretty sure that I have a much easier time “feeling with” loss based emotions. It only seems to take a few symbols – be they words or images or music – and I’m right there suffering with. Yet it seems to require fairly well fleshed out story to manufacture the ecstatic feeling of enjoying with. And usually any hint of triteness, the slightest flavor of deliberate manipulation, and I’m suddenly observing it through fission reactor viewport glass.

This isn’t really how I want to be. I want happiness to rub off on me. I want sorrow to find no purchase. There is no reason for loss to bring sorrow: waterhouse-miranda

“…though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all ;
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought :
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tyde unto another brought :
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.”
― Edmund Spenser

Yet I find myself forever sorrowing with others and much less often able to enjoy their triumphs and happiness as my own. I am utterly aware of flow and change, yet it appears that I’m addicted to loss and hardly notice gain.

Have you ever noticed how romantic losing is?

Have you noticed that stories and movies spend a lot more time on the suck of life than on the glory? Oh, we love to see triumph, but do you notice that 90% of a movie is the protagonist face planting over and over just so that we can accept a mild triumph at the end? And in that structure, only failure leads to more living and learning, triumph is rewarded by a fade to black and credits rolling. Do I believe that happiness should be timeless, that nothing should follow happiness? Do avoid it because I’d rather live on feeling sorrow than go to credits because I finally succeeded?

To be clear, I don’t think I’m miserable. I love my life! Sadness MUST exist for happiness to be sweet! But why is it so much more difficult to believe in the happiness of another than to feel their loss?

Do you find it easier to empathize with sorrow than believe in happiness at all?

I do. And I want that to change.