Slice of Life: Not Being Political is a Privilege

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I am an avid reader.  So often, throughout my life, I have connected with the secondary characters in historical fiction.  I never imagine being the main character – facing adversity beyond imagination, making change, standing up for what is right. The characters that keep me up at night, that cause me to have to get real with myself, are always the secondary characters.

Would I hide a family in my home?

Would I risk my children to save someone else’s?

Would I have the courage to risk my safety when I do not have to?

Would I put the people I love in danger to stand up for justice?

I know this sounds selfish and shallow, but it is my truth.  I hope I would.  I believe I would.  But that is a strength that has been untested in my life.  I do my part in my community.  I contribute time and money to causes.  I stand for what I believe is just and kind, but all from the safety of my life – my privileged life.  I do no harm; in fact, I do good – but only good within my comfort zone.

I am a secondary character.  I have not considered myself to be political thus far in my life.  As an educator, I stay clear of sharing my political views.  I do not want to alienate collaborations with other educators.  I want to have an open mind and always be responsive to another person’s point of view.  I want to be approachable and make others feel safe learning with me.  Even as I write this post, I worry I am going too far, revealing too much.  As an educator I also have an insatiable, relentless belief that every human being has the capacity to learn and to change.  I believe everyone has a point of view and it is only by striving to understand another’s point of view that change and progress can be made.  By sharing my views I worry I will quiet the voices of others, voices I need to hear in order to understand.  When politics become heated, I strive to see the other point of view and believe a person can learn, can change.  I am hopeful.  I stay comfortable.  I stay quiet.  I choose to play it safe.

While I did choose to march in Boston on Saturday, I was, in truth, a little afraid.  I even debated if I should go.

Would it make a difference?

Could I do my part in a different way?

I don’t really like crowds.

What if something goes wrong?

Is it worth risking my safety?

I saw one sign at the march that spoke to me, directly to me, and has stayed with me since – causing me to pause, reflect and act.  It said:

Not being political is a privilege.

These words are true – my truth.  It is a privilege.  It has been my privilege. I chose to march on Saturday, but I marched from the safety of my privilege.

So how can I move beyond privilege, maintain my belief in humanity’s potential, consider all points of view and advocate for what I believe to be just?  How do I move beyond being a secondary character?  I look to the words of Brene Brown, “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up,” and yet I realize that while this may be true she also says, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both.” (Daring Greatly) I must choose.

Not being political is a privilege.   Not being political is a choice.

I am choosing and I am prepared to be uncomfortable.  I believe in the potential of humanity.  I believe in change and the power of each person to make change. I am privileged.  I do not know what it is like to be the main character of so many realities, but I am here, I am ready and I choose to show up.  I will show up for children – all children – who have the right to education, health and equality. I will fight, protect, advocate, listen and show up for them.  I will choose to be political for children, all children.  I will show up and choose discomfort to support those who need my voice and my privilege.

Clare

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16 Comments

  1. Jennifer Laffin January 24, 2017

    Such a wonderful analogy between roles in literature and roles in life. You have made me think about the times when I am a secondary character when I should play more of a leading role. You have given me much to ponder today and I thank you for that.

    Reply
  2. Linda Baie January 24, 2017

    Having the choice from the stance of privilege is something to consider, yet using that privilege to act is a good thing. I like hearing your thoughts and arguments with yourself, wonder how many are doing just that this week? And, actions in different roles, in the classroom, as a mother, as a woman, etc. mean different actions too. You’ve shown the complication well!

    Reply
  3. Carol Varsalona January 24, 2017

    Powerful words, Clare-well said! This quote rings true: I believe in the potential of humanity! Onward and upward…

    I did read your slice last week but did not leave a comment – just wanted you to know.

    Reply
  4. Aileen Hower January 24, 2017

    My mom had shared when I talk with her about social media, that I need to keep out of things and just mind my business. When she gives advice, I know she always means well, but often it represents how she feels and would act, but does not reflect how I have come to feel or believe about some things. I realized as she was speaking that this is exactly what I do not want to do: keep quiet. This is my business. These are important issues. We cannot remain silent, although we do have to speak respectfully and also listen. Thank you for your post.

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  5. Tara January 24, 2017

    I realized that many of us at the march on Saturday were there because we had the privilege of free time, money for transportation, and child care if it was necessary. The women who in many ways will be most hurt by this administration could not be there – they were working, couldn’t afford the train fare or air fare, and did not have childcare. We are privileged to act and represent the voices of those who don’t have the privilege.

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  6. Stacey January 24, 2017

    This is a huge statement — and I agree with it. We cannot choose to sit back and not fight. Like Tara said (above), those of us who are privileged to act represent those who are not able to use their voice safely.

    This is a powerful sentiment and I cannot wait to share it.

    Thank you for marching.

    Reply
  7. Julie Burchstead January 24, 2017

    This reminds me too, that for some, being political is an issue of life and death. With good fortune, I may not ever experience that, but I can learn what it might be like by reading books. One of the best signs I saw in D.C. simply said: READ. I remember a recent post I saw illustrating our former president’s extensive reading habit. That our current president does not read: heartbreaking.

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  8. Rose Cappelli January 24, 2017

    Thank you, Clare. Just today I revealed to a friend that I was disappointed that I could not participate in Saturday’s march because of a prior commitment. This is a friend that I have known for many, many years and we have always been at polar opposites politically. So we have just avoided those issues. Today I chose not to be silent

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  9. Melanie Meehan January 25, 2017

    Brave is my OLW for 2017, and your post is pulling at it. Privilege does offer us the choice to not be political–so true! I completely agree with that. And I admire you so much for stepping out of your comfort zone. I’m working on figuring out that path, as well. My core belief that public education is one of the pillars of democracy gives me strength and bravery in this crazy world we’re sharing right now. I’m grateful for the inspiration you offer week after week. Thank you. On so many levels.

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  10. Deb Frazier January 25, 2017

    Such a true and powerful statement and an excellent point. I really never thought of my privilege allowing me to remain silent. This year my OLW is Bombas, working with a hive to do better- this is one area where I have chosen to be better. Tara raises the excellent point that those the most touched by the challenges of this administration are often not able to speak for themselves.

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  11. Kristi Lonheim January 25, 2017

    Yes and choosing to be positive while engaging with politics is also a choice. When you talk about not sharing your political views in order to be a collaborator I think you hint at this idea. I think we need to choose to engage in our political system, to exercise our civic duty, but to do it in a way that encourages dialogue. I also think it is important that we are modeling how to do this well. You go, girl!

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  12. Mary Ann Reilly January 25, 2017

    I wonder about the idea of privilege and how it insulates and at the same time reveals. It feels important to recognize that being apolitical is more myth than fact. Omissions are every bit as loud as statements uttered.

    Reply
  13. Christine Baldiga January 25, 2017

    I have never thought of privilege in such a manner. Thank you for opening my eyes and for speaking up, which I believe might be harder than marching. Your words touched me.

    Reply
  14. PaulaBourque January 26, 2017

    I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this post. It captures so much of what I have been thinking as I read posts and comments from my friends of color, and those facing prejudice and discrimination on a regular basis. When I hear people saying, “Can we take a break from politics?” I realize that only those who enjoy privilege have that option. I love your last line, “I will show up and choose discomfort to support those who need my voice and my privilege.” I will join you!

    Reply
  15. Linda Smith January 29, 2017

    Wonderful article Clare. I hope you don’t mind if I shared it on my FB page.

    Reply

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