I am sitting here tonight, attempting to put together a blog for PRIDE month. That will be next week’s post. I had put out the offer to participate to anyone who writes lesbian characters. A few people simply could not participate for personal or professional reasons. A few grabbed on. Most completely disregarded the invitation. I will not lie, I was profoundly disappointed, although not surprised in the slightest. Today gave me a reminder of why I believe coming together in positive ways matters.
The topic I asked for thoughts on was the importance of VISIBILITY in media. VISIBILITY of positive models of all types of people matters. Reality is bred in perception. Perception is impacted profoundly by media, both creative and news media. That is not a debatable point. It is a fact. Our perceptions of ourselves, of others, and of our society are molded by what we see, what we are told, and what we experience in our lives. More now than ever, media plays a role.
Today, media, all media, is ablaze over the topic of a shooting at a church in South Carolina. A young, 21 year-old man enters an AME church on a mission to kill black people. He succeeds. We are disgusted. We are enraged, saddened, and appalled. Yet, it continues. Again and again and again and again. We divide ourselves over race, over gender, over sexuality, over ethnicity, over religion. Divide and conquer. What are we conquering, I wonder? Our sanity? Our safety? Our trust? Our hope? We are not conquering our demons in this world, we are feeding them.
I spent the last hour perusing social media and the internet. I am disgusted. I read a blog chastising “straight women” for only finding feminine women attractive. I read a host of posts on Facebook that depict some public figure in a demeaning way. I saw “Blog” post after “news” post vilifying police, and others elevating some celebrity or another to some ridiculous stature. LOOK at what is visible in our world. LOOK. LOOK. And then, LOOK AGAIN. We are told who we are. We are fed who others are. We buy it. We pay for it with our insecurities, our fears, and our divisiveness. We feed the monster...OVER and OVER and OVER again.
We have to ask ourselves—what do we want to be VISIBLE? What do we want our children to learn? What do we want them to hear? To emulate? What world do we want to live in? One where we define ourselves by division? One where we mitigate others simply because we have bought hook line, and sinker a vison of ourselves that diminishes our own worth? The only way to elevate ourselves is to somehow make others less? Is that what we want?
We debate guns. We debate laws. We debate religious text and its meaning. We debate and decry these horrendous things happening in our world. Yet, we allow them. Not only that, we revel in them—in the debate—in the HEAT of our passions over issues, we drown ourselves in the perceptions we already have, whatever they might be. What is it? Do we feel that alone?
You may not think that matters. It matters. What we say. What we do. How we act. What is visible matters. I am not suggesting that we should hide the bad things in life, but we certainly should look to elevate the GOOD things. LOOK. REALLY LOOK.
The world becomes what we plant today. Our words, the images we send out, the models we give others to interact with whether in our daily lives, the pages of books, the weekly drama of a television show, a blockbuster film, the cover of a magazine, or what we paste into our feed in social media are seeds. They are visible to us but we often do not pay attenion to them closely until they grow up to become trees. We need trees. We need lots of trees, but we need them to enhance our living, not choke out the sunlight.
How DO you perceive gay people? How DO you perceive black people? How DO you perceive Christians? Muslims? Jews? Pagans? Asian people? Hispanic people? Transgender people? Men? Women? HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE yourself in this world that is SO rich with texture and color? Are you happy to sit amid the rainbow, to understand that when you blend, you do not lose your light in the colorful ray that surrounds you? I don’t need to know the answer. We all need to ask the question.
I amnot suggesting that art has limits. I am not suggesting that people cannot differ in opinion. I am suggesting that this world is OUR responisibility. Blaming someone else for the culture we continue to immerse ourselves in has not worked. It will not work. On some level, each of us has to begin to act deliberately to seek change. I refuse to believe that this world has to be this way. I refuse to accept that we cannot LEARN to UNLEARN what we have been FED. I refuse.
So, while some will find my openness, my frankness, my passionate ideas offensive, I will not be silent. I cannot make everyone come together on the playground and extend their hands. And, to this day that breaks my heart. That doesn’t change the fact that in my heart, I am still that little girl who could not understand why everyone couldn’t play together. Why couldn’t everyone just be kind? I still don’t understand. What I do know is that VISIBILITY matters. It always has. It always will. We need POSTIVE models. We need leaders to speak loudly about acceptance and with compassion. We need people to live openly as WHO they are, the lives they are meant to live. We need characters in films that show us bi-racial relationships and families, LGBT couples and families, elderly people. We need to see women who weigh more than 110 pounds in prominent roles. We need to see people with physical differences. We need to SEE and HEAR and KNOW that they are ALL just people. The truth is we are all children and children will listen. If you have never heard this song - please listen. LOOK. LISTEN.
I leave you with these words from the song posted here from Into the Woods:
How do you say to your child in the night? Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white How do you say it will all be all right When you know that it might not be true? What do you do? Careful the things you say Children will listen Careful the things you do Children will see and learn Children may not obey, but children will listen Children will look to you for which way to turn To learn what to be Careful before you say "Listen to me" Children will listen Careful the wish you make Wishes are children Careful the path they take Wishes come true, not free Careful the spell you cast Not just on children Sometimes a spell may last Past what you can see And turn against you Careful the tale you tell That is the spell Children will listen How do you say to a child who's in flight "Don't slip away and I won't hold so tight" What can you say that no matter how slight Won't be misunderstood. What do you leave to your child when you're dead? Only whatever you put in it's head Things that your mother and father had said Which were left to them too Careful the things you say Children will listen Careful you do them too Children will see And learn Guide them, but step away Children will glisten Tamper with what is true And children will turn If just to be free Careful before you say "Listen to me"