A Flame in the Darkness

This was written on Thursday, 9/27/18, the day of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh's testimonies to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As I sit and try to prepare for a conference I’m presenting at tomorrow, the events at today's hearings in the Senate and what they mean are utterly inescapable within my thoughts. Some might say that today is a precipice—a day that will stand out with marked reverberation throughout the remainder of American history, in one way or another. Yet, amidst the noise and the drama, amidst the grandstanding and the politics, there is a gaping, silent echo of missing voices. These are the voices of those millions who have survived, and the millions more who haven’t. These are the voices of those we choose not to hear.

I cannot help but wonder why there are so many who do not recognize the agony and the suffering of those who have been forced to live and relive their trauma. I grew up being taught that love, faith, and integrity were three of the most important values a person can have—three things that, when understood together, can only mean empathy. Being able to empathize with others, to recognize a shared humanity—it is the crux of everything that it means to be human. And I have seen it work. So many people I know and love remind me of the power of empathy every single day.

And so, I cannot help it. I cannot help but look at the hatred and power mongering and the violence and just ask that question: why? It is impossible not to wonder. To ask that question which will always have the same answer, the same answer which dooms us all. The reason why such evil exists: fear. Fear of losing power, even if that power is meaningless. Or the fear of pain, even if that pain is fleeting. The semblance of power and security in denying the egregious and terrifying truth of violence is pain’s privilege. Suffering and inequality are empathy’s tomb. For those of us that recognize the harmony and the beauty that exists in empathy, in the power of recognition, solidarity, and hope—for us, a brighter, more vibrant world is a dream that exists only in a microcosm.

And so we look and we see and we empathize with the suffering of those who fear inflicts and thrusts its toxic and damaged agents upon. We look and we see that fear and violence corrupt absolutely, and its trickles and streams are the terrors that haunt our now-scarred dreams. We think and then we feel an overwhelming sadness at the brevity of hope compared to the longevity of violence. And then we do what we can, whatever that may be, to make a difference, to fight those forces that perpetuate violence in all its forms. A movement, a congregation, a protest, a testimony, a vote, a donation, an act of charity, a conversation, a hug, or even a desperate plea into what seems a void of an almost unspoken reality—it is these actions, inspired by hope and a tiny flame of optimism that empathy can prevail over the forces that want to stamp it out, that light the way in resistance of fear. But still, violence prevails. It prevailed today. It will prevail tomorrow. It will prevail on the next day, and the next, and the next. Until empathy is freed from its cage, when the intersections of life are no longer chained to those at the top of the world, violence will win.

In the meantime, we must continue. We must do, we must see, and we must feel. We must act, we must think, and, most importantly, we must fight. So long as that flame of hope remains, there will always be a place where those missing voices find a waiting ear. Another voice to give them sound. A home where there was never one before.