Today is June 13, 2016. The LGBT community and its allies are reeling from the horrific mass-shooting in Orlando. As I write, I am actively grieving for people I do not know, as many of us are. As if this event was not awful enough, I am enraged, absolutely ENRAGED by the flood of social media judgment upon those who are expressing their collective grief by those who do not seem to be in a position to act superior. I will be composing this blog and sitting on it for a few days. If you’re reading this, I’m still pissed off enough to publish it. DON’T BOTHER WRITING TO ME. If this commentary makes you uncomfortable enough to want to bitch me out, just don’t. I will not read the email, and I won’t approve your comments under any circumstances. Take that energy and use it to figure out why my diatribe hurt your feelings, and whether or not your attitude is helping or hindering your cause(s).
Slacktivism: In my opinion, the douchiest word of the 21st century thus far. Yes, that’s what I think. An asshole way to describe one of humankind’s most basic reactions to tragic events… “I’m sorry this happened, but I do not want, or do not feel I can get any more involved other than expressing my sympathies.” This is, and has been, the reaction of the vast majority of human beings for as long as there have been human beings and sad situations. Stuff sucks. Bad things happen to good people, and the people who are not directly effected move on because their worlds are still turning. Is it good? Is it bad? Neither. It’s normal. 100%, hard wired, paid our respects, normal.
But as if this was something new, the pithy, ever-so-clever, sarcasm-is-the-new-black blogosphere created yet another term to use against others. In this instance, the target is those who you feel do not measure up to the impossible standards of… well… YOUR preconceived ideas about how OTHER people should behave. They’re not angry enough. They don’t donate time/money/blood. Their “thoughts and prayers” on social media are clearly useless, because X, Y, or Z happened anyway. They’re not even a member of the demographic in distress, so they have no right to comment.
Are you serious? If you’ve actually said this out loud, or posted it on social media, did you really think you were helping? Is your cause any further along thanks to your caustic judgment of these people you probably don’t even know? I didn’t think so.
I’m not writing this in order to dissect the correct application of the term “slacktivist.” I don’t even care whether or not its a useful or wasteful behavior. It’s an obnoxious, divisive word. What I am here to say, is that if you’ve derided, directly, or vaguely, someone else’s expression of grief, no matter how small, and/or applied this term, you need to check yourself. (If your feelings are already at a boil at this point, or you’re not up to the task of adjusting your perspective, do us both a favor and stop reading. Right here. The rest is going to completely ruin your day; maybe your whole friggin’ decade. Fair warning.)
Calling someone a “slacktivist,” or sneering at their “thoughts and prayers” makes you, in that moment, a total asshole. (Oddly, when a sitting president goes on national television to express no more than “thoughts and prayers,” somehow that’s a hallmark of how marvelous he is. Joe Bagadonuts posts it? Slacktivist.) Yup. You’re an asshole.
You, in all your self-importance, never, NEVER get to choose how another human being reacts to a situation. (Did I say NEVER FUCKING EVER? EVER?! Who died and made you Fuhrer?) More over, judging their behavior on the matter based on their FaceBook content makes you even WORSE. If you’re flaming others for their seeming lack of reaction online, you need to remember that the vast majority of life, real life, happens off of social media. The bulk of people’s thoughts, words, and deeds are not recorded for your digital digestion, and you have absolutely no idea the effect their personal introspections or face to face conversations are having on an issue. You don’t. Get over yourself.
Shall I aggravate you even more? Why are you so very concerned with what OTHER people are not saying or not doing? It seems to me, if you were coming from a qualified place of true activism, you’d be focused on attracting people to stand with you, and perhaps too busy to shame anyone. Better yet, even old Dale Carnegie made it his very first directive in winning people over: “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Human nature does not like to admit fault. When people are criticized or humiliated, they rarely respond well and will often become defensive and resent their critic. To handle people well, we must never criticize, condemn or complain because it will never result in the behavior we desire.”
I couldn’t care less if you don’t respond well to my criticism of your criticism. Dale’s disciples and I have two very different objectives. I leave the winning of friends to sales people and politicians. I am neither.
So what ARE you doing, really? By the look of it, no more than the “slacktivists” you’re criticizing, and perhaps less because you’re certainly not creating a dialogue conducive to turning them into allies and activists. Because you’re not out there yourself, slugging it out in the streets, and can only manage to sit on your ass and troll FaceBook, do your shitty comments make you feel better about yourself in regards to your own inaction? Ooooh. Ouch. Bet that smarted.
And just what are YOU doing, you deluded, elf-chasing Professor Trelawney wannabe?!
Don’t go there. I became ordained so I could legally marry two people, any two people, who want to spend their lives together. I mentor. I teach. I answer blubbering, hysterical phone calls at 3:00 in the morning from people who have no one else to turn to. And there’s nothing slacking about the shit I stand up to from bullies for being openly Wiccan, both online and terrifyingly, in real life. Shut your gob, and don’t email me.
And where do I get off giving “thoughts and prayers” any respect as a form of acknowledgement of grief or loss? The hardest way possible. I lived through it.
In 2006, I was 30, and married to a wonderful man whom I loved more than anything. Ray was literally my sunshine. We were made for each other. We had just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary, and one afternoon, he didn’t come home. Night fell, and he didn’t come home. 1:30 in the morning came, and the police arrived at my door to tell me he wasn’t coming home. Ever. He died in a motorcycle crash.
Nothing, and I do mean nothing, about my life was the same from that moment on. But before I would cope with the future difficulties of losing my home, car, and business, I had to live through the funeral. It was, in its way, as awful for me as Ray’s death itself had been. I felt like a chimp at the zoo, standing there for three hours at the foot of his casket. The pitiful, tragic young wife, such a shame. All I wanted to do was die. It had to be less painful than standing next to the corpse of the love of my short life, dutifully receiving endless platitudes of “I’m so sorry for your loss,” “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” and “My thoughts and prayers are with you.”
In my overwhelming state of pain and torment, I succumbed to bitterness. No one had anything helpful to say. Not one single word made me feel better or made me want to live through the night. What use was it? And where are they now? “Here if you need anything,” my ass! What the fuck could you and your lip service possibly do for me?
My mother, in all her gentle but well-articulated wisdom, and my best friend Kimberly, who both stayed with me, taught me one of the most important things I have ever learned about human behavior. In my deepest moment of rage, fear, and self-pity, it was so wrong of me to judge these good, caring people over things they could not fix for me.
That funeral was not just for Ray. Many of the people who came (400 in total,) never met him. They came because they loved me. Me. Even the people whom I did not know, but knew me through my parents, who were also bereft, stood with us in love and support. And they weren’t saying “I’m so sorry for your loss,” “I’ll pray for you,” “If there’s anything I can do…” They were saying:
My heart is broken for you, and it’s ripping me apart to see you suffer. I feel completely powerless next to this loss that is so big, and so unthinkable, because my experience as a human soul up to this point has yielded nothing that could have prepared me to help you. But I hope these words, small and quiet as they are, show you that you are not alone. In your darkest hour, you aren’t alone. I’m not much, but I’m here.