If You See Something, Say Something

see-somethingWhen my kids were small enough for peek-a-boo, they’d sit, a chubby toddler hand across their eyes.

“Can you see me?” they’d squeal, peeking through their fingers. To them, the logic was simple: if they couldn’t see me, surely I couldn’t see them.

A year ago, I found myself in a situation with someone waxing lyrical about his perceived virtues of Donald Trump (which essentially amounted to not being Hillary Clinton). I racked my brain to find a way to rationalize his ideas so that I could continue to be in the shared space we found ourselves in. I couldn’t. So I stopped sharing the space. I stopped doing something I enjoyed because I didn’t want to make others uncomfortable.

That’s what women do. That’s what liberals do. We don’t, in the parlance of my kids, walk all over other people’s feelings. Sometimes women don’t argue for no other reason than a deeply embedded survival instinct. Generations of women can attest that an angry man is often a dangerous man. As I wrote recently, keeping your head down as a woman is not an act of cowardice or consent as much as it is an act of survival.

I’m not one to shy away from confrontation. In fact, I court it most of the time. But I was deeply invested in the idea of allowing room for diverse thought.

I say was because I was wrong. Because racism and sexism? That is not diverse thought. It’s hate. It is some sort of superiority complex masquerading as something else. There is no room for racism. There is no room for sexism. If you feel that your skin color grants you superiority, or the organ dangling between your legs denotes supremacy, if you feel the God you worship or the book of stories you choose to live by outweighs those of others then you are, quite simply, wrong.

I can’t stop anyone feeling those things. I cannot nor should I stop anyone from thinking them or speaking them. But I will be damned if I will not confront the ugly truth of them and let them slide in order to keep a one-sided peace. A one-sided peace which is often mistaken for consent and agreement.

Women are taught, from a very early age, to keep the peace, to compromise, to find a middle ground. We are raised with an unspoken understanding that our role is to make everyone else comfortable, even at the cost of denying our own needs and beliefs. Making those around you uncomfortable? That is to be avoided.

You put your hand over your eyes. If you can’t see it, it follows that it’s not there, right?

Except it’s still there.

I’m a white, heterosexual, middle-class woman. I’m very probably past my child-bearing years. Hell, I don’t even live in the US at the moment. The easiest thing in the world for me to do right now would be to drape something across my eyes and tell myself that confronting it will make everyone else uncomfortable.

But just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it can’t see me.

 
After 9/11, the NYPD ran with a Homeland Security campaign which urged New Yorkers: If You See Something, Say Something.

As Septembers came and went, the cry became less urgent. The fear of terrorism became something you learned to live with as opposed to something that fell out of the sky one cloudless day. It became a tag line. Black letters running across the bottom of a subway advertisement, sandwiched in between Dr. Z and Brooklyn Community College.

letter-2
Close up of letter sent to mosques in several U.S. states.

If you see something, say something.

What I am seeing, since the morning of November 9th, is evidence of the resurgence of acceptable racism, normalized sexism, legitimized bigotry. A digging in of heels over systematic oppression. A backward sprint toward a notion of “I can say anything now’ in some imagined Trump-landia, as if the election of a president magically stripped away any pretense of civil rights, civility, civilization.

Uh-uh.

Now is not the time to cover your eyes and pretend it’s not there. Now is not the time to worry about making others uncomfortable. Now is not the time.

If you see something, say something.

If you see someone promoting or repeating racism, say something.

If you see someone harassing someone else because of their sex, say something.

If you see someone giving someone a hard time because of their sexuality, say something.

If you see someone targeted because of their faith, say something.

Too many of us have been peeking out from behind fingers. We enjoy the privilege of looking away because it doesn’t affect our day-to-day lives, or it does affect us but somehow we normalize it.

This is not the time for looking away. It’s not the time to bite our tongues in order to keep things comfortable. It’s not time to keep the apple cart upright and moving.

The apple cart needs to be well and truly upset. The apple cart needs to be overturned, dismantled, smashed and burned for good measure.

Liberalism gets blamed for a lot of things. But the one complaint about liberalism I agree with is this: we focus too much on inclusiveness. Because in our quest to allow everyone an equal voice, to include all, we left enough space for the nasty stuff to get in. We gave the nasty stuff equal weight. And now it is in danger of spreading like poison ivy all over the skin of a nation.

silence-is-betrayalNow is not the time for inclusiveness. Now is not the time to make allowances for speech or actions which serve no purpose other than hate. Now is not the time to consider the bully’s feelings, to try to understand, to use logic. Now is not the time to let silence be mistaken for consent.

Now is the time to peel the hand away from our eyes and confront whatever is in front of us. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us or the people around us.

 

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21 thoughts on “If You See Something, Say Something

  1. ksbeth December 4, 2016 / 12:38 pm

    yes, i so agree with this

    Like

    • Dina Honour December 4, 2016 / 12:55 pm

      I hope everyone does, Beth. I fear what will happen if we don’t.

      Like

  2. Alicia Cacella-Hathcock December 4, 2016 / 1:25 pm

    Bravo! If one is silent while others are laughing at a racist comment or religious slur, then one is condoning it. For years, I just lowered my eyes & turned away, not sure how to handle these “oh, it’s just a joke, lighten up” attitudes. No, they’re not funny, period. I don’t want to condone such attitudes, nor will I excuse them.

    Like

    • Dina Honour December 4, 2016 / 10:26 pm

      I think we all did. And I think that was the problem. Our reluctance to say ‘no, that is not okay’ led others to believe we felt the same way. Perhaps it emboldened. But we can make up for it now. I hope.

      Like

  3. Elyse December 4, 2016 / 5:13 pm

    YES! There are many things we can’t control — but how WE respond will actually mean the difference between hate winning and losing. If I have anything to do with it, it ain’t gonna win.

    Like

    • Dina Honour December 4, 2016 / 10:27 pm

      I hope we are on the winning side, Elyse. I really do. For you and me and our kids. For our country and our planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cherry December 4, 2016 / 7:14 pm

    Many times I watched clips of lions attacking a buffalo, I always wondered why the herd didn’t fight back. Don’t they know that they are bigger, stronger and can win when they fight altogether? I guess they didn’t believe that and sadly when there’s one that takes the lead, nobody follows for whatever reasons hence they fail. Look at this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM. Look at the behaviour, the one that led, the hesitant, the movement, the truth, the nature…for even painful, it can be achieve.

    Like

  5. hearttoheartwithjesus December 5, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    Does your liberalism include the rights of men? How about freedom to say what you think? How about disagreement WITHOUT hatred?

    Your blog is like reading the party-line for liberalism. I wish you could begin, again, TO THINK FOR YOURSELF. Instead of whining over differences and immediately labelling those who think differently from you, how about REAL tolerance of difference (opposite of xenophobia). How about considering men’s rights as well, instead of slathering them with your judgement of sexism? The problem with you is that you can’t HANDLE truth – REALITY – and want it censored. It has been said that Liberalism is a mental illness. I have come to the same conclusion. Liberals are at war with themselves and need to deal with their own denials and delusions before they begin to be able to relate credibly.

    Like

    • Dina Honour December 5, 2016 / 5:27 pm

      Yeah. I’ve got nothing for you. But please feel free to take your righteous indignation elsewhere. I think you are a troll at best, delusional at worst. I hope you seek help, but again, as it is a free country and you have every right to disagree, by all means do. But it’s my blog. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. I honestly could not care less how you view me, my politics, or my views.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hearttoheartwithjesus December 5, 2016 / 6:55 pm

        Just offering my opinion. Notice I didn’t call YOU names or label you. I disagree with you. Isn’t that all right?

        Like

      • Dina Honour December 5, 2016 / 7:08 pm

        You are not just offering an opinion. You are aggressively questioning, repeatedly in ALL CAPS, views which have no basis other than your opinion. Which is exactly what I am offering. Observational opinion. Your tone and aggressive repetitive, harassing behavior are commonly used by internet trolls and/or those who have only belief system based on the anything if religion. So I don’t think assuming you are a troll IS actually name calling. If you find fault with my argument that there is no room for racism or sexism in diverse thought? Then I have zero time to engage with your opinion. In fact, once again , I will be leaving your comments unread and not responding. As that is twice now, perhaps you would rather find another blog that either more closely aligns with your own beliefs or one in which the author is more interested in time consuming and pointless argument baiting. Good day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • hearttoheartwithjesus December 5, 2016 / 9:27 pm

        Well, Dina, sometimes I use all caps for emphasis. Certainly, I was expressing my opinion. I am sorry you find my style aggressive. I enjoy ideas, sincerely, and discussion. I assure you, I have no ill will, only an interest in thinking and thought. I believe there is a reality with absolute truths. Many people today think that whatever you believe is true – relativism is the term. I’m just exploring. I find your blogs interesting. I am aware we come from different perspectives. To my mind, that’s okay.

        Like

      • hearttoheartwithjesus December 5, 2016 / 9:37 pm

        Well, Dina, I appreciate you don’t like my style and regret you find my presentation aggressive. I enjoy ideas and discussion, most truly – sorry if that is offensive. I reluctantly call myself an intellectual, meaning that I seek understanding. I am not offended by other beliefs, and certainly find no room for hate over them. If we are to get along as humans, we need to accept diversity and be honest with ourselves and others. If we can’t discuss our beliefs and come to understand each other, well, what is the point?

        Like

    • Paul Grizenko December 8, 2016 / 4:30 am

      This post from HearttoHeartwithJesus is a rather stange one. There are so many code words and phrases. Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. (Wikipedia). “Your liberalism” turns that worldview around and claims that the struggle for liberty and equality actually disenfranchises (instead of liberating). And in a way it does, as those who used to assume that they were entitled to privilege (whether through ethnic origin, or gender, or religion, or skin colour or social class) are finding themselves with the loss of such privilege. If one sees the world as a zero-sum game, then the gain for some HAS to mean a loss for others. In this world-view, the struggle for equality is not that at all, but a shifting of power from one group to another. I could be wrong, but in my perception those who believe in liberalism also believe that one can “grow the pie”, whereas those who disparage liberalism maintain the pie can never be grown and that the discussion is about who gets what.

      The phase “Freedom to say what you think” is another way of saying “Freedom to offend without consequences”. This viewpoint feels that moderating what one says with the view of not offending others is to be rejected as it is political correctness that coddles the weak-minded. This world-view equates the idea of moderating one’s opinions to a position of enforced weakness, since those with power have no need to concern themselves with such moderation, as they will suffer no ill consequences (being shielded by their power).

      The exhortation “TO THINK FOR YOURSELF” implies of course, that you are NOT thinking for yourself, and therefore must be parroting some mindless set of slogans and talking points. I see this often followed by “Do the research”, or “Stop believing the lies the MSM (main-stream media) are telling you”. What this world-view is telling you, is that the world is of a binary nature – either 100% right, or 100% wrong. Good vs. evil. Us vs. Them. The true believers vs. the non-believers. And in this world view, if you’re not thinking like the person writing the post, then there is no middle ground, you are ON THE OTHER SIDE. In other words, Nuance, or the complicated multi-layered reality, is just the devil’s way to blur the boundaries of what should be clearly delineated and be seen as black and white.

      As a white male, old enough to have grandkids, I read the post and shake my head. I recognize this type of man. He mourns his loss of privilege, and he wants HIS reality restored, in which he can say what he wants without worrying about the consequences of offending others, and he can enjoy his “rights of men” because they trump the rights of everyone else. That’s one reason Trump won.

      Those of us who ARE committed to equality of humans (regardless of gender, origin, religion, or culture), should understand that this pain is real. We must also understand that we need to strip away the delusions and denials that these people use to shield their world view from examination. This stripping away has to happen by patiently disassembling the foundations of their belief structure. And the foundations are quite shaky – which is why they are defended so ferociously – they know that their foundations are weak and will NOT withstand detailed examination and scrutiny.

      Keep the faith Dina. You are not alone. And yes, when we see something that is not right, we do need the courage to say something. And then, do something.

      Like

      • Dina Honour December 8, 2016 / 11:54 am

        Thank you, Paul. Not only for the though out and intelligent response, but for being part of the fight.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. emzmommie02 December 5, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    Heart to heart with Jesus. I am not sure who is taking away the rights of MEN. Last I checked they still have the power. I notice the majority of Men in Congress, CEO’s etc. Maybe you could give a specific example of when you as a man had your power taken from you? I am sorry that you are feeling insecure and lashing out at someone who is trying to help people who are vulnerable in a certain moment. This same piece which you are troubled with would protect you if we saw you being attacked or victimized in someway. I also think that freedom to speech and freedom to bully are two different topics. May you have a very Happy holiday season..

    Like

  7. aviets December 8, 2016 / 4:36 am

    Absolutely. In the parlance of the leadership work I do, the question we all have to ask ourselves in the aftermath of the election shit-show is “How am I part of the mess” or “How are all of us part of the mess?” This crap didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened because we haven’t spoken up, haven’t acted. And I’m done with it. The only way to overcome this disaster is to speak and act, with no fear and no apologies.

    Like

  8. Ersatz Expat December 8, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    Thanks for an excellent post. I was lucky enough to have parents who felt my opinions were worthwhile and encouraged me to form them and defend them. I went to an all girls school where, instead of being raised to be quiet and compliant we were educated to form our own opinions and express them, politely and respectfully but still express them and stick to them and to stand up to injustice when we saw it.

    We are raising our children in the same mould and believe the more people who are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the better. Edmund Burke was right in his time and he is right now.

    Like

  9. poetsjasmineblog January 14, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    Thank you for this post, we need more articles like these.
    The quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. really touched my heart.
    The hate mail was disheartening, but your words shone through like a bright ray of hope.
    As a Muslim and a human, I thank thee from the bottom of my heart. ❤

    Like

    • Dina Honour January 15, 2017 / 4:06 pm

      You know, as a writer, you hope that your words make it out there somewhere in the ether. I’m glad they reached you and that you found some measure of comfort in them. I’ll keep doing my part.

      Liked by 1 person

      • poetsjasmineblog January 15, 2017 / 4:16 pm

        Thank you so much. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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