Monday, July 11, 2016

Being Shut Down

Many people are shut down by others on a regular basis.  These are people others don't want to hear for many reasons.  Sometimes it is because they speak uncomfortable truths that we don't want to face.  Sometimes it is because they call us on our stuff, stuff we aren't ready to look at or own. Sometimes it is because we don't value what the other person has to say, don't respect the other, or don't believe the other has any right or business weighing in on a particular issue.  Sometime we fear there isn't "enough" and that others will take what we want, feel we deserve, or believe to be "ours" exclusively.  Sometimes we are simply threatened, fearful or angered by some aspect of who they are.  Richard Rohr and Scott Peck both describe (in different ways) "evil" as the projecting of some part of ourselves outward, a piece of ourselves that we cannot deal with, a "shadow" as it were, that we put out there somewhere and then work to destroy.  When we can put our shadow on someone else, or a group of folk, we feel safer somehow...that thing that scares us so much is now out there and something we can actively destroy. The problems with this are obvious: the part of ourselves we can't face is still there, which means we need more and more "other" to shut down.  We are damaging other people because we cannot face parts of our self.  We demonize and villify the other and often cause more people to join us in our crusade against the "evil" other that is in fact nothing other than the parts of ourselves we can't accept.  But people do this.  Far too often, and far too much, people do this.

Sometimes it is individuals we shut down, who rub us wrong or who we again don't like or don't value or don't respect. Other times it is whole groups of people whose voices we shut down.  We are afraid, we are angry, we are hating, and we don't want to hear from "them", whoever that may be, who represents "the other" for us.  So we shut them down with our words, with our looks, with our lack of response, with our gossip, with our meanness, with our privilege, and, more and more in our culture, with our violence.  We've been seeing this a great deal lately.  We demonize African Americans, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ folk, sometimes cops or people of different political or religious beliefs, to name a few.  We attack them because we fear them.  And we fear them because it is easy to not deal with our own stuff but project it out and try to destroy it.  That which we don't understand becomes an easy "blank slate" on which we write our own beliefs, our own agendas, and again, our own shadow side, which we then work to destroy.  Any time we categorize a group of people, rather than looking at each person as the individual they are, we should be highly suspicious of our own motivation.

The affects on a person of being shut down vary, depending on how it is done, who does the shutting down and how connected and affective they are. But the reality is we have seen far too many people shut down permanently, killed, for no good reason at all (is there ever a good reason to shut down someone in this way?).  When it is done by authority figures, by those who are respected, even if that respect is really just fear, then those authority figures often get away with that kind of behavior. The victim is victimized more as a person "at fault", "causing" their own demise.  We see this not just with the killings, but with rape victims, domestic violence victims, victims of any violence - physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, too.  We want the world to be just and fair.  We want those we respect to be exhonerated, even if that means allowing others to be destroyed, and blaming the victims for their own victimization.

The thing is, every time we shut someone else down, we have forgotten that they are our brother or sister.  We have forgotten that we are all one and are all connected at a very basic level.  When we injure other people, we are lessened.  When we hate other people, it is parts of ourselves we are hating. When we fear other people, we are failing to understand them.  When we keep others from having what we have, we all have less.  And often then, we set up an "us and them" dynamic that causes even more hate, even more fear, and even less understanding.

Bottom line: We have to stop killing people.  We have to stop hating people.  We have to stop fearing people. We have to stop shutting one another down. Instead, we have to remember that we are all family to each other and we have to start treating each other as such.  Treating the other in the way they want to be treated.  Listening, caring, working together to make the world a better place. Treating each person not as a member of a group, but as the individual person they are.  No one should be excluded from the table.  We have to find a way to include and invite everyone.  When even one person is left out, we are all lessened.  When even one person is killed part of each of us dies. When even one person is shut down, all our voices are weaker.  When even one person is pushed aside, discounted, devalued, seen as invisible and unimportant and unworthy of our respect, all of us are made less important, less worthy and less whole.

We learn and love and walk this planet together.  Or we fall  - apart and alone.

I realize what I'm saying we need to do is not possible at this moment in time; that just saying we have to stop fear, hate, killing will not change things.  But I also believe that we have a hand in creating the world in which we live.  So for today I will work harder to see who it is that I fail to see, who it is I fail to hear, who it is I fail to offer compassion to.  And I will work harder to choose differently.