“I am not helpless. I am not alone”
The words pass my lips more and more these days, as I watch so much of what I believe in pushed aside and twisted into something I can’t recognize. I don’t talk much about my political beliefs, because for me they are human beliefs: we are equal, we are in this together, and we are all deserving of each other’s help, and love. That’s hard to accept, and I admit to being challenged to accept what I feel on a daily basis. Especially when we’re inundated with so much hate and vitriol. It feels inescapable: on the news, on social media, even at the family dinner table. And over the last few days it’s gotten to the point where I can’t stop shaking, from pulling away from everything and everyone because the words are starting to become just that: words.
I’m terrified right now, and the more I watch the more frightened I become. Not just for my family, but for my friends on both sides of the fence. I’m constantly walking a tightrope, trying to balance between friends and family and followers who scream I’m on the wrong side, or worse: I’m on the right side but by not screaming as loud as everyone else I’m just as guilty, just as culpable. I’m an idiot for believing everyone should have health care and women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies, and I’m a traitor because I won’t disavow my friends and family who voted for the President, or voted third party, or just plain didn’t vote.
I understand the arguments, I do.
But that would go just as much against what I believe. I have had so much anger my entire life, and it has done nothing for me except push people away. It cost years I could have had with my father, and by the time I realized it I managed to see him for 10 minutes before he died, surrounded by tubes and strangers who had a closer relationship to him than his first and eldest son. And I can’t let that hate creep back into my life, not when I have my own son sleeping in the room next to the office as I write this.
“I am not helpless. I am not alone.”
So I keep trying. I keep saying those words over and over, quietly. I keep trying to remember them as I do the small things I can to keep the values, the human beliefs I hold dear a real thing for me and for my family. And then Bandcamp announced that today, February 3rd, they would donate 100% of their share of proceeds for all purchases made to the American Civil Liberties Union in an effort to fight the discriminatory and unconstitutional acts signed into being on a daily basis by the current administration. And a number of things fell into place for me.
The circumstances that led to me writing for Nine Circles was reading about and joining the #MetalBandcampGiftClub community. Here was a community of people sharing in their passion for metal in the best way possible: not by arguing or gatekeeping, but by “gifting” music to each other. Birthday lists were created and folks were deluged with new music on their birthdays. Like anything much of the initial enthusiasm has fled as folks drifted into other circumstances and behaviors, but every now and again you see a spike of generosity – a gift given because someone on Twitter was dealing with a sick relative, a gift received because unbeknownst to you, something you said or did helped someone else when they needed it.
It was this spirit that started #MetalBandcampGiftClub. And I sat there thinking about it, and thinking that there are probably a lot more like me, quiet and afraid to speak up for whatever reason, and all they’re looking for is something they can do, something that can show we’re not alone, and we’re not helpless. And this time it’s incredibly easy: buy yourself an album from Bandcamp. Better yet: go onto someone’s wishlist and buy them something. And maybe when you do, tell them they’re not helpless, and they’re not alone.
Because we’re not. We’re not helpless, and we’re not alone. We’re scared, and we’ve forgotten that small gestures can lead to bigger ones, and quiet words can travel just as far as loud ones, and kindnesses, even small ones, can radiate a light and heat that expands in ways too subtle to notice. These gestures have their own voice we might have forgetten, and maybe taking a day to remind each other (you’re not helpless, you’re not alone) will help us to transform political values into human values, and help us to see the path, see how far we need to go to live the example we want to see in others.
I don’t know. It might just be me, and that’s maybe the most terrifying thing to consider. All I know is I see a lot of pain around me, and screaming never helped. It just made me more angry. So today I’ll take a deep breath, buy some great music, gift some great music, and tell people they’re not helpless, they’re not alone, and maybe it’ll help.
“We are not helpless. We are not alone.”