The flood of #MeToo postings in my social media feeds these past few days has been overwhelming, and more than a little heartbreaking. I’m amazed at the courage of both friends and family members who are sharing their hard truths with the rest of us. I think it takes guts, together with a belief that the message needs to be heard. It’s like a bell sounding and resounding in the distance, growing louder in my ears, calling for attention, and calling, frankly, for a bit of “fear and trembling.” A moment of collective silence might be the best response, but silence on the internet can feel an awful lot like complicity, so what follows is my own, decidedly amateur attempt at a personal reckoning.
Several women I know have posted or commented to the effect that there’s probably not a woman alive past her teenage years who hasn’t experienced unwanted sexual attention – and often of a hostile and vile nature – directed towards her at some point in her life. The spectrum from harassment to assault is a broad one, encompassing many degrees of onslaught and trespass, but for those who have suffered it, I suspect it all falls, to some degree or another, in the realm of assault – assault against the senses, assault against the mind and against the heart, assault against the body, and assault against the dignity and innate beauty of each and every living being.
Whenever we fail to see our interconnectedness, whenever we lose sight of our own delicate and profound human nature being reflected back to us in the face of the ‘other’ in all our daily encounters, the results can be truly terrifying, and, in the most literal sense, dehumanizing. It’s not just that we owe better to the people around us. We owe better to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to elevate and ennoble our own conception of what it means to be alive, and to be human. We are all, each and every one of us – to borrow a phrase from the Psalms – “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and it’s the work of a lifetime to realize this fact and to comport ourselves accordingly.
In my own life, I’ll admit that I’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention (from both women and men). Some of it was clearly harassment, while some of it seemed more like bullying at the time but might, in hindsight, have crossed a blurry line into something worse.
But I know there’s some privilege in my perspective, and I don’t really mean to compare my own experiences to what others have been through, whether they’ve decided to post about them on social media or not. I have my own wounds that I carry with me – and my own deep brokenness – but at this particular moment in time, it seems more important to take a moment to acknowledge the pain and the experiences of others, to say, perhaps, something like “I see you,” even though that phrase hardly seems strong enough. All the same, you are seen.
For whatever it’s worth, I see you, and I believe you.
Whatever else comes of this moment in virtual time, I hope we come away with eyes widened, both by the scope of the pain and by the sheer unadorned beauty of everything – and everyone – around us, if we can only stop and appreciate one another long enough to see it.
So, thank you for sharing, for trusting us with your stories, for allowing us the opportunity to bear witness to your suffering, and to see the world through your eyes. It seems like we all need to learn to be better to each other. I know I do. I still have a long ways to go to reach that place described so well by the poet and writer Naomi Shihab Nye, that place where “it is only kindness that makes sense anymore.” It’s a long road, but I’m trying to follow it – with the help of those resounding bells – putting one foot in front of the other, traveling one day – and one step – at a time.
Posted in roundabout response to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Brave
Note: The image is from an article by Brother Phap Hai, a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, on bowing. (https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-bowing/)