Three Thoughts on Activism

A few weeks ago I went to see the Butler with Rob and I'll tell you what I just fell apart. In the previews! It was the weirdest thing. I did a mental scan just now to try and remember if there was anything else hormonal or circumstantial that would have put me in an especially vulnerable state and I came up with nothing. Just several increasingly depressing and hopeful trailers in a row, followed by a full-length film inspired by true events, all about how unfair the world is and how some people rise above and make it better.

First the Somali pirate in Captain Philips points out oh so correctly that in his home country, there isn't a much better way to make money. In Twelve Years aSlave, a free man literally is kidnapped and sold to a terrifying-looking Michael Fassbender (and perhaps a very kindly, but very OLD looking Brat Pitt). And then Mandela:

How's that for a background song? Africa and its historical plight has always felt more for me than most other issues for some reason. Not that I really could ever really get it. I'm in about the least discriminated against demographics there are. And I get that with that, I don't really get what it means to be discriminated against, but to see a person catalyze a movement, and to see the people in that movement fight so hard for so long is something that literally, apparently, brings me to tears.

The following week was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's famous I Have a Dream speech. Obama spoke, people gathered, and all over the radio and internet people were talking about where we're at here in America. It got me thinking about changers. The people who see injustice and fight for it. Not just with race issues, but with everything that feels unfair. Feminists and new order Mormons are particularly interesting to me, but I feel pretty inspired by those who have shaken up any other rights that get oppressed sometimes when people get lazy and the collective gets entitled.

A few thoughts on activism, activists, and their activities: 
1. It's important to hear stories.  
I was talking to my dad a few days after watching the Butler, which recounts the life of a  black butler in the White House through many pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement, telling him about how it blows my freaking mind that the kind of racism depicted in the movie was just not that long ago. He was telling me about what he remembers from when he was in high school, out in super white Utah, granted, but for sure relevant throughout the country. My mom went to a segregated school, for crying out loud. No wonder people cried when Obama was elected. From burning buses with no legal ramifications to a black President in one generation is pretty huge. Even more recently in Africa- Apartheid ended when I was in the second grade. Tiananmen Square happened when I was in pre-school. When my mom was young, there were such different expectations and opportunities for women that it doesn't seem real that there was a time when women rarely ran companies and kicked corporate butt. The whole Arab Spring movement might not even be happening. In most of my days, I don't feel or see the injustices that are still happening.

It's so far away from my experience that it doesn't feel real. So it's good to hear stories. Well-told ones, hopefully (recommendations welcome), that put you in the shoes of the oppressors and the oppressed. Because we've all got it in ourselves to be both.

2. I wish it was more acceptable to celebrate progress.
Feminism, gay rights, church policies, sustainable fishing. I see changes and am excited to see them, but there are always loud voices screaming that we're not there yet.

Can't we just appreciate how far we've come for a second?

I'm reading this book right now about the fishing industry and I get that there's always more we can do to make sure we can feed the worlds billions blah blah, but it's like there's no moment to say "WOW. WE DID SOME REALLY AMAZING THINGS." It's all panic and sob stories and warnings. One of my favorite blogs is Sociological Images, a collection of perspectives on all sorts of topics people are always fighting for: income equality, racial fairness, positive body image, and well beyond. Sometimes it's exhausting, though, because there is no end.

Women have great jobs... WOMEN DON'T MAKE ENOUGH  >: (
Junk food companies can't market to children... DIABETES IS KILLING US ALLLLLL

It's like the world is always in trouble with its disgruntled child; never satisfied, or even acknowledging progress, always demanding more.

3. Even though I get frustrated by the 'never enough' attitude, I so deeply appreciate those who always fight for better. 

One reoccurring sentiment throughout The Butler was that Cecil, the butler, would reassure his son, the activist, how things were changing, slowly but surely. Small wins were proof that people were changing and life was soon going to be FAIR. His son didn't think slow was good enough. So he sat in sit-ins, walked in marches, petitioned politicians.

Fact of that matter is, for most causes worth fighting, a glacial pace is really not quick enough. The world needs people who will see a win, nod their head, then cross their arms, dig in, and say MORE.

I appreciate active LDS church members who are posing really thoughtful questions about gender roles and policies grandfathered into our cultural idea of how things should be (like Family First Weddings). I've signed a few petitions on Change.org, so I get weekly updates from people petitioning about everything under the sun. (Stop gender targeting toys! Add a wheel-chair access button on Craigslist! Free the lions at the Buenos Aires Zoo! Legalize Marijuana! Ban Marijuana! Make the Starbucks Pumpkin-Spice Latte Vegan!)

As someone who frequently feels a rational indifference toward many a controversial subject, I feel impressed, inspired, and moved to action (sometimes) by these people who believe in something so strongly they will not rest until it changes. I appreciate the fervor. Am jealous of it. It makes me cry.

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