Conversation vs. Retaliation: Passion, Advocacy, and ‘Fairness’ by Joel Worford

We live in an age where it’s difficult to lobby for restraint, and in many respects, this is a good thing.

Last weekend’s March For Our Lives serves as an excellent example of the beautiful showing of humanity that can come as a result of some groups’ (in this case, young students’), uninhibited exhibition of passion in working towards a goal. It was the students’ and marchers’ uncompromising position towards what they believed in that made last weekend’s event so powerful.

The March For Our Lives campaign shows one of the many positives that strong, peaceful resistance to compromise can result in.

In other words, passion is not the enemy. One can be passionate and have a respectful conversation with someone who holds an opposing view. Passion is necessary for change—without passion, nobody would show up to get things done.

Passion is the difference between one and one million.

There is no change without the presence of strong-willed, bold individuals who refuse to compromise, and so—join together in lobbying for their beliefs. Passion, advocacy, and outspokenness are qualities we should celebrate in this time where listening to and learning about the opinions of others is essential in building a better society. Passion is not to be stifled.

What we need to come to distinguish, however, is passion, advocacy and frankness from meanness, superiority, and revenge.

Regardless of how it may seem, there is no universal moral high ground. Believing that one’s opinion is the “right belief” is no justification for telling someone that their view is completely invalid and that they are stupid for believing it. The reality is that oftentimes when we seek change, we don’t know for certain that the result will be better; we just hope it will be. While this may be a bleak view, it is useful in discussing the dialogue on today’s controversial events, which often seem polarizing, antagonistic, and useless.

Social media is a blessing and a curse when it comes to progressive movements. On the one hand, social media provides a voice to those individuals who, otherwise, might go unheard. However, social media also becomes somewhat of an opinion cesspool—a place where everyone and anyone can express themselves anyway they want, and have an audience.

Expression is great, but the way one goes about expressing oneself can sometimes do more harm than good. Starting conversations is the best way to make progress on controversial issues, but it’s difficult to reach a level of understanding with someone when the discourse started with disrespect or condescension.

People often justify inflammatory and instigating social media posts with oppressed group’s past hardships. Lines that go something like, “How could you ask [oppressed group or individual speaking on their behalf] to be calm after all they’ve been through? How is that fair?”

Calmness isn’t so much what we’re asking for, but let’s be honest—when has anything been fair for these groups, and why do we choose to believe that there’s a necessity for fairness now that there’s actually a chance to change things? There is a time for anger, and there is a time for expressing those negative feelings, but taking them out on others is conducive to nothing but more hatred.

This might sound idealistic, and it might be disappointing, but the reality is that showing compassion and patience towards someone different than you is the best way to get them to listen.

Now is not the time for anger and retaliation. With society listening to oppressed groups and asking “How can we change for the better?” now is not the time to spit in the face of those engaging in conversation for the sake of avenging past mistreatment.

Is the anger justified? Perhaps, but regardless, accepting the aggressive, rude, and harmful acts of those who’ve been oppressed because they’ve been oppressed sets a nasty precedent. Granting this kind of invincibility ends up placing individuals in a sort of competition to see who’s been the most oppressed—a sort of battle for superiority and power based on past hardships. We need to treat aggression based on past mistreatment with understanding, but not acceptance.

The idea that oppressed groups need to restrain their anger to move society further away from the hatred that causes their anger is unfair. However, as earlier stated, the situation has never been fair for these groups, and when it comes to making sacrifices, the right to retaliate must be one of them.

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Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia, and a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Must Read! Thirteen Types of Activism by Roland O. Watson

THIRTEEN TYPES OF ACTIVISM

"The following are the standard types or methods of modern activism:

1. Volunteer: Volunteer on your own or with interested groups to assist disadvantaged and underprivileged people, and threatened species and habitats. In an international context, volunteer to work in refugee camps, at local schools and medical care clinics, or for some other NGO (non-governmental organization). There is a huge network of volunteer organizations around the world, and once you are part of it, once you start volunteering, it is easy to find new and fascinating opportunities.

2. Grassroots activism: Found or join community, student or other groups and then engage in “tabling,” where you set up a table at some social event and hand out literature and talk about your cause. In addition, such events are often supplemented with, or designed around, activist speakers and performances and exhibitions by activist artists.

The objective of grassroots activism is to increase the publicity of, and most importantly the support for, your cause. You particularly want to engage the interest and if possible the involvement of members of the different groups that are being negatively affected. Your goal is to organize them, to pull them out of their complacency and defeatism, and to assist them in their opposition.

For activism to be effective, we must organize large-scale movements to express discontent and to demand change, movements of such a size that they cannot be ignored. But to do this, we will have to find ways to unify the disparate sources of rebellion that exist, including environmentalists, workers, students, ethnic and indigenous rights activists, religious groups, and even the disaffected individuals who listen to gangsta rap and hard core rock. Further, we must solicit the concern of those individuals who one day will suffer the most, if we are unable to solve our problems: schoolchildren. (They must be recruited as well, to help protect the world they are destined to inherit.)

Activists also must recognize that only one thing, historically, has led to large-scale rebellion: the deaths of a great number of people. Rebellion has never been instigated by the destruction of nature (although the taking of land has been a contributing factor in some popular movements). This is a reflection of human chauvinism, that we only get upset when bad things happen to us. For example, this is one of the reasons why the debate over genetic engineering is finally starting to gain some prominence: it involves a threat to people. (The history of the twentieth century included a number of significant victories against government repression, but far fewer against environmental destruction.)

Lastly, there is the problem that activism is usually reactive. We assume, because we are ethical, that other people are as well; that they have a conscience and are not wholly dominated by personal selfishness. Then, when they demonstrate that they are so dominated, we have to react.

To be effective we must build large-scale movements, and we must anticipate this: we must be proactive, and unpredictable....."

Read the Rest of This Important List Here

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Great Read! "13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism" by Jackie Reeve (from Geek Mom)

"It’s a politically charged time to be alive in the US. Yesterday’s Women’s March brought out incredible numbers of people in cities and towns around the world who exercised what we consider a fundamental right in America. Maybe you had your young children with you, like I did. I realized while we were marching in a local protest that activism can be a hard thing to define to young kids. Keep the conversation going with these books that help explain and demonstrate what it’s all about...."

Read Jackie Reeve's Excellent List on Geek Mom

 

Collage by Jackie Reeve

Collage by Jackie Reeve

Good Read! "Why we need to move empathy from personal emotion to collective moral concern" by Roman Krznaric (from Aeon)

from Aeon

"Empathy comes in two distinct forms: affective empathy is our instinct for mirroring the emotions of others, while cognitive empathy is our conscious ability to understand someone else’s perspective.

In this installment of Aeon In Sight, the British writer Roman Krznaric argues that empathy is a uniquely powerful – if often overlooked – tool for transforming and improving societies on a mass scale. Using it effectively, however, requires much more than affective empathy’s rush of emotions and reflexive reactions, to which the culture today seems particularly inclined.

Rather, to get the most out of empathy, we must focus on widening our moral concern through cognitive empathy, finding ways to move from the personal to the collective....."

Read The Rest Here

Friday Hashtag #ReadersResist, from Writers Resist: Write Our Democracy

"Words are the tools writers use to create change, but without readers what we write cannot come alive. Readers must be at the heart of this movement. We invite you to resist normalizing "alternative" truth and narratives that contradict the bedrock principles of our country. Resolve to seek out and share truth and initiate inspired conversations. Together we can shift the narratives that define our future and help recover democracy.

On Fridays join us on social media with the hashtag #ReadersResist and share prose passages, articles, photos, poems, or any written material that demonstrates the solace, resolve, and resistance so essential to renewing our democracy.

Learn More About Writers Resist: Write Our Democracy Here

 

INSPIRATION: "Young Activists Who Made History This Year" by Zing Tsjeng (from Broadly at Vice)

"When historians of the future look back on 2017, they'll probably agree with our current assessment of this year: It really, really sucked. From Trump rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender students to his travel ban on Muslim people, each month seemed to bring a fresh hell to look forward to. It's enough to make anyone flee to their nearest forest witch seeking succor and comfort.

Rather than sinking into despair and pulling out the motherwort, however, young people everywhere have taken the events of 2017 as a rallying call to stand up and challenge our increasingly abysmal status quo.

From trans rights activists like Gavin Grimm and Lily Madigan to mental health advocates like Elyse Fox and anti-Islamophobia campaigner Hebh Jamal, the world isn't short on inspiring individuals who made 2017 a little less hellish for people everywhere....."

Read More About These Amazing Young Activists Here

EVENT: "After the March RVA: Activism Convening" Hosted by Richmond Peace Education Center, Feb 24, 2018

Details from the Richmond Peace Education Center Facebook Page

After the March: Activism Convening Free & Open to the Public

What is it?

Timed approximately one year after the Trump inauguration, the After the March RVA Activism Convening is an effort by the Richmond Peace Education Center to bring together those that are and want to participate in work aimed at achieving equality. The convening will feature workshops, community conversations, and movement building/networking time. The registration below holds more information about the workshops and conversations.

When is it? And Where?

Saturday, February 24th, 2018 at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Ave) from 12pm to 5:30pm.

It is free and open to the public. However, we are asking you to please register.

Who is it for?

Everyone! Anyone who is (or has) been doing work to better the community and those who are looking to get involved in creating change have a place here.

What will I get out of this?

We hope that you leave After the March with a new or deepened network of folks to work in movement with and with new or deepened "real life" skills. In addition, some of the workshops at After the March will continue to be offered by the Peace Center throughout 2018. The intention behind After the March is to be engaged in the long-term, so this is not a one & done convening.

Childcare and Transportation Assistance Also Available

Read More Details Here

or Have other questions? Email our advocacy coordinator, Jelani at jelani@rpec.org

 

About the Richmond Peace Education Center

The Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC) works to build just, inclusive and nonviolent communities through education and action.

 

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GOOD READ: Your Turn: 4 Things You Can Do to Honor Martin Luther King in 2018 by Carlos Galindo-Elvira (from The Arizona Republic via ADL)

(From ADL--This article originally appeared in The Arizona Republic)

"As we head toward another day of remembering Dr. King, his own words are most suited for the moment: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.”

4 tangible things you can do

"King's work is far from over. Here are things to do in 2018:

1. Work in a bipartisan effort with state legislators to codify a standalone criminal provision for hate crimes. The law should be more inclusive and comprehensive, covering hate crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability......

2. Support a clean Dream Act – one that gives “dreamers” a path to citizenshipwithout other stipulations attached, such as border-wall funding. It's a moral imperative.....

3. Ask Congress to support the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act.....

4. Shrink the space for extremists to grow and thrive......"

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Learn more about the Anti-Defamation League Here

 

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IMPORTANT READ: "The Year I Stopped Breathing: On Being Muslim and American in the Age of Trump" by Moustafa Bayoumi (from The Nation)

Thanks to CVWFP Chapter Member Kalimah Patricia Carter for sharing this important read. 

The Year I Stopped Breathing: On Being Muslim and American in the Age of Trump

Trump didn’t invent Islamophobia, but he has injected it with a new and lethal force.

By Moustafa Bayoumi

 

".....Our fears were not abstract..."

Almost instantly, mosques were vandalized. Muslim parents agonized over their children’s safety at school. Violent assaults increased not only in number but also in ferocity. As all of this was occurring, we were working hard to look out for one another, while also trying not to lose sight of what this catastrophe meant for the nation as a whole....."

"...we can’t let our energies dissipate...."

"...Like the Japanese-American woman from Brooklyn who offered her help to Muslim strangers in 2001, we need to show the level of concern for one another that the times demand. We need to organize our energies to secure a more just and humane future. And we need to do so with a mass surge of people beside us....."

READ THE REST OF THIS IMPORTANT ARTICLE HERE