Elizabeth posted this comment on yesterday’s random thoughts in response to my words about condescension:
“The more I think about it, though, the more I am convinced that the particular people I wrote about are never going to budge. That doesn’t depress me as much as it makes me realize that it’s not about vindication and that I will move forward even as they stay put. “
Yes. It isn’t about vindication at all and, if it was, we are all likely to remain incredibly disappointed by those in power who are not interested in shifting the dynamics. For me, though, it is about being heard.
I am just naive enough (or maybe it’s idealism – I’ve been accused of both) to think that when someone invites me to be part of a conversation, they are actually open to hearing what I think. In the case of the meeting with the Surgeon General a few weeks ago, I was also naive/idealistic enough to think that it might really be a conversation, a dialogue between him and the parents in the room, but it was more like a transaction, a sales call where he showed up saying he was interested in what we wanted and ultimately sold us the only thing he had brought to sell – his canned comments and rhetoric. I don’t believe there was ever anything else on offer besides an opportunity to sit in a room and say his piece. Given the number of times he was asked a question that he failed to answer at all – instead steering his words toward another subject altogether – I am convinced that there was some preexisting agenda that included the rest of us as simply warm bodies to receive his message.
That, I am not interested in. I don’t want a transaction, whereby I simply sit passively and receive the information others want me to receive. Nor am I interested in vindication – some magical moment wherein the folks in power have an epiphany and shout, “You’re absolutely right! We should have seen it all along!” as they hang their heads in shame. That might feel really freaking amazing in the moment, but ultimately it doesn’t do anything to – as Elizabeth says, “move (us) forward.” And it doesn’t do anything to alleviate the frustration and/or suffering that came for years as I tried to get anyone to listen.
Last October when I was in New Mexico with the likes of Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem, someone said (I think it was Gloria, but I honestly can’t remember), “If you want to stop someone in their tracks, tell them you don’t believe them.” Yes. But, I would add, it is even more powerful to send them the message that you aren’t even interested in hearing them. And that is the message we get when these kinds of events are scheduled, ostensibly to hear various perspectives, and the only stories that are allowed any oxygen are the ones that have been told over and over again. This is a tactic that has been used for decades – deny that there is a problem. Pretend that those voices that tell a different story belong to folks who aren’t smart enough to really know what they see/feel/experience, or that they aren’t important enough to pay attention to and they will eventually go away or start questioning their own sanity.
The difference these days is that we have other ears. Social media has given us the opportunity to find others who are telling the same stories and band together to raise our voices. If we can’t have a dialogue, at least we can change the venue a little. Instead of continuing to hit our heads against that brick wall that the powers-that-be have put up for us to write our protests on, we can turn around and go somewhere else where we will be heard. We can validate each others’ perceptions and continue moving forward, with or without them.