The best hashtag I’ve seen in a long time is #enough. It’s short, it’s poignant, and it expresses what a whole lot of people are thinking this week. Enough violence. Enough discrimination. Enough hatred. We probably reached the “enough” point thousands of years ago. According to a couple of famous political thinkers, history is littered with moments of “enough”. It fuels great literature, music and film.
So here I am, in 2016, sitting at my desk, and I really, really want to help. Besides trying hard not to be violent, discriminatory, and hateful myself, I’m not sure how my one pair of hands, my one little brain, my one squeaky, sarcastic voice can make a meaningful contribution to all of this long-needed, long-awaited “enough”.
Here’s the only thing I know how to do: I’m adding more “enough” to the list.
First, enough pretending that being a thinker is something that can be left to academics. Enough shrugging our shoulders when asked about something important, something like justice, equality, identity, and saying things like “I dunno. Whatever.” Enough excusing ourselves from big questions because they’re difficult, or uncomfortable, or because we’re afraid that our ideas won’t matter. If there’s one thing that’s become clear over the past few weeks, it’s that the way we discuss questions about justice, equality and identity (and a whole lot of other important things) really does matter. It matters as much as cutting the grass, getting a haircut, watching TV, or the myriad of other things we spend time doing every day. It matters so, so much more than any of these things. Enough letting a day go by where it’s not important to think about these things.
Enough allowing ourselves to think things like “Well, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.” We can no longer put stock in just opinions. Our new currency has to be arguments- reasonable, well-explained arguments. I’m not saying that there are concrete, clear-cut answers to difficult questions like these, but it should be pretty obvious from the events this week that some answers are better than others. Some answers clearly aren’t working for us. Enough with the “anything goes” approach, and of being afraid to challenge what’s already there.
Enough of not doing everything we can to encourage our children to ask these questions too. I’m not proposing that we sit them down in front of gory news footage or present them with vivid descriptions of recent events. We fuss over what our kids wear, what they eat, what they play with, how long they brush their teeth, but their reasoning skills, their ability to think critically, their insatiable drive to know “Why?” are often considered cute distractions, even annoyances. Enough putting this on the back burner because, let’s face it, we’re not sure how to tackle these questions ourselves, as grown-ups. Yeah, parenting is hard, and awkward, and exhausting. If I’m going to finish the day completely spent, I’m okay with it being because of my kid’s incessant questions. Enough assuming that these questions don’t belong in their daily routine.
Enough assuming that I’m not part of the problem too. Yeah, if I turn over rocks, I’m going to find creepy stuff. While asking these really difficult questions about justice, equality, and violence, I’m probably going to find I’ve contributed, even if it’s just in very small ways, without realizing it. But I can’t fix something unless I know that it’s broken.
Enough wishing and hoping that everything just fixes itself. We’ve had a long time as a species to smarten up, and we haven’t. In fact, we seem to be making an even bigger mess. What’s different about this particular moment in time is that technologically speaking, we now have the capability to share. Sometimes the sharing is of the bad news itself, the shock and the horror, the disbelief. Maybe this in and of itself is a good thing, at least a catalyst for change. It’s much more difficult to excuse one’s self from difficult questions when there’s video evidence that they need to be asked. Enough thinking we don’t have a means to talk to one another about these things. Enough bemoaning social media or other mass communication for being vapid or unsubstantial. Let’s actually learn to use them for something important. What’s more, enough using these tools to be violent, unjust, or hateful.
Here’s my humble suggestion: once a day, after you’ve cruised Twitter or Facebook, after you’ve read the paper or watched TV and you’re properly horrified by what’s been happening, take a few minutes and formulate a question. Make it a big one, one that begins with “Why?” and one that doesn’t have an immediate resolution. Think of an answer. Turn it over and over in your mind for a bit and see if you can find holes in it (you probably will, so don’t be alarmed). Sometime later in the day, try another answer, and another, and another. Then ask someone else the same question, and be patient and respectful when they give their answer. Patiently and respectfully turn their answer over and over, looking for weak spots, just as you did with yours. Repeat the process. A lot. Like, all the time. Share. Discuss. Listen. Respect. Keep going with all of this, knowing that even though you’ve had your fill of tragedy, when it comes to asking big, important questions, you will never reach “enough”.