THE CRISIS IN LISTENING 

If you are surprised by the election of Trump 
Then you have not been listening  
If you are shocked by the racism and sexism and classism and homophobia and hatred 
Then you have not been listening 
If you are surprised by the dominance and violence and oppression  
Then you have not been listening 
If you hear black lives matter and think, white lives matter or blue lives matter too 
Then you have not been listening  


This is it not new. 
This is not shocking. 
This is not going away. 

If you haven't noticed it it's because 
YOU HAVE NOT BEEN LISTENING. 
You have had the luxury to not listen. 

I know because I have had that luxury too.
I can drive down the street and not worry about being pulled over and beaten, or shot, or arrested, or killed on the way to jail or in jail.  
I can march in a protest and cops wave and smile at me. 
I can walk into a convenience store and not be regarded suspiciously by a cold eye. 
I can hold hands with my partner and not be harassed. 
My child can go to school and not get beat up for being "different". 
I can go home and rest. 
I can get a job. 
I can rent an apartment, buy a house, go to the doctor, buy groceries, eat with my family. 
This violence that I don't have to see is not new. 

We are just in a crisis of listening. 

It's time to listen.  

Because what Trump brings to the forefront is that this violence and dominance can happen to anyone, anywhere. It's not new. But now it can happen to you. And it will happen to you. If we continue not listening. 

What's been hidden underneath the comfort of white skin, a good home, comfortable couches, food on the table, jobs, identities that are normalized, money, a good life... is violence. Violence on every corner. Violence in every town. Violence in every home. Violence we haven't wanted to see. Hidden violence against blacks, browns, LGTB, men, women, poor, incarcerated, homeless, disabled, veiled, foreign, different, the OTHER. Violence in the form of killing, attacking, abusing, violating, ignoring, arresting, blocking, silencing, disappearing, disempowering. Violence in the form of not listening.

When Black Lives Matter came about did you listen? Did you talk to people of color? Did you go to NAACP meetings to see what you could do? I did. And the thing you'll hear is it's not new. It's not shocking. It's not a surprise. This has been going on forever. But we have had the privilege and luxury of not listening. Not seeing. Ignoring.

Like it doesn't matter. 

You might feel guilty, defensive, angry, scared, hopeless, helpless. And maybe that's made you look away in the past. "I don't intend to harm, I want what's best for everyone, I do what I can, There's nothing I can do." I know all of these feelings. I've felt them too. But instead of avoiding them and LOOKING AWAY, stop.  

FEEL.  
Looking away is an act of violence.

YOUR FEELINGS POINT YOU TO YOUR HUMANITY. 
Looking away makes you complacent. Complicit. Condoning. These feelings we have are our guides. 

Guilt? Because you have things others don't have and you wish everyone could have their basic needs met but don't know how. 
Defensive? Because you do care and want the best for everyone. You want everyone to be safe and treated with respect. Your intentions are good! 
Angry? Because you can't stand people harming innocent people. You want to protect them. And because living life is exhausting and you don't know how to help. 
Scared? Because listening means hearing heartbreaking stories. And you're afraid you can't handle the pain and the suffering and the anger. 
Hopeless? Because it seems too big to surmount. You wish there were doable steps to take. 
Helpless? Because what can one little person do? Is there any way to actually help? 

These very powerful feelings are the seeds. Listen to them.  

We are in a CRISIS OF LISTENING on all levels. It starts with listening to yourself.  

Listen to your feelings, your wants, your fears. You will see that you desire hope, power to change things, good treatment of people, shelter, safety, food and love for all. And if you keep listening you will find many ways, big and small, to answer this call. Talk to strangers. Ask aquantances, class mates, coworkers, people standing next to you, people on the streets, people you'd normally ignore, what their experience is. Joining groups. Petition. Support legislation. Protest with Black Lives Matter, the "We Are Here To Stay" campaign, Writers Resist, Women's March, etc. LISTEN to the stories you haven't wanted to hear. Listen to the news. Study history. AWAKEN to the violence people are suffering daily, the violence they have been suffering for ages.

If you haven't heard this it's because you are one of us who has had so much we haven't had to listen. It's not your fault. But now you have a choice. You have a choice to listen. And after today it will be your fault for not listening. And when this atmosphere of violence comes for yours, as it inevitably will, you'll wish you had listened and acted. 

This will not happen overnight. 

This looking away is a deep injury, a long standing weakness, a rift, an atrophy in our brains and bodies. It will take time to heal, to strengthen and train ourselves to look, to listen and to see each other's stories and pain. And to stay with it. Our reactions are to automatically dismiss. This is survival. But this is also the seed of violence. First you distance, then you can do anything to someone who isn't human. So fight the violence within yourself and don't dismiss people's stories and experiences anymore. Listen. Feel. Respond. The pain you feel is nothing compared to that which many have suffered and are suffering. Don't run away into the comfort of your whiteness, your home, your food, your friends, your community, your oblivion, your helplessness.  

Feel.  
Plant the seed of hope and love.  
Feel.  
Let it blossom into vines of desires and buds of action.  
Feel. 
Let the wave touch others and change this word. 

All you have to do is feel and you will respond differently. You will be awake. 

It won't all happen today. But if you stay, stay with the stories and the emotions, and the dreams those emotions lead you to, then you will find ways to awaken these dreams. Ways we've never thought of. And you will find you have been sleeping. And the comfortable, safe life you were living wasn't enough because you weren't listening. These voices from around the world come through us all. We all must listen. 

4 comments

  • Lori Tuttle

    Lori Tuttle

    So proud to call you my friend. Thank you.

    So proud to call you my friend. Thank you.

  • Cynthia

    Cynthia Santa Cruz

    Well said. Thank you, Maggie.

    Well said. Thank you, Maggie.

  • Andrew Johnson

    Andrew Johnson Seaside, CA

    This is insightful, inspiring and beautiful art in words

    This is insightful, inspiring and beautiful art in words

  • Beth Matthew

    Beth Matthew

    Well written! What a great reminder to take the time to listen to other's stories, show compassion and to care!!

    Well written! What a great reminder to take the time to listen to other's stories, show compassion and to care!!

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