Friday, September 24, 2021

The Other Side of Privilege

Let me be honest here. I have lived a blessed life. 45 years doing fun and meaningful work in a (mostly) supportive and loving community,  a lovely house in a city I love one block from a park that feeds my soul, a healthy and (mostly) loving family shared with my active wife, with two daughters we admire and two grandchildren we adore, the opportunities to travel to some 60 countries and (mostly) good health. I am not boasting here nor am I unaware that much of that could change in an instant, even by the end of this sentence. If anything, that sense of the delicacy of good fortune feeds my ever-growing gratitude for it all. 


Some of it came from my own choices and efforts, some from help by seen and unseen hands and some from just plain good luck. I’m also (painfully) aware that the liberties and freedoms I enjoy, the confidence that nobody is out to get me for no reason whatsoever, comes from a privilege I inherited that, though promised to all in our country’s founding document, has not been equally delivered to all— not then, not now and not next week or year or decade. Just by virtue of being a straight, white, middle-class male with a college education, I am spared the horror of the arrows of hatred, the closed doors of narrow choice, the threat of death if my car tail-light is out.


And more confession. Like most Americans I know, I’m affronted if my computer doesn’t work properly, infuriated if my flight is delayed, enraged if I get a parking ticket 5 minutes after the time expired. Then there’s a second level of political outrage that feels more justified and more useful, fueling my determination to sign petitions, make calls, take to the streets when injustice is endorsed by those in power. This level can also include plans to build high-rises in my neighborhood or to shut down music programs in schools. 


And then the third level which we often think only happens to us, but of course, happens to everyone. The small and large betrayals of friends, lovers, workplaces you gave your life to, those personal injustices that call for our attention and response. Which naturally, often includes outrage or whining or anger or genuine grief. We are thrust into the role of the victim and either play out the part or refuse the script. 


And finally, the grief that no one avoids of losing loved ones and watching the list grow as fortune grants you birthday after birthday. It’s all real and it all deserves attention. 


But the big, unanswered question we’re all called on to answer is this: How do you deal with it? Wallow in it? Deny it? Repress it? Express it? Ignore it? Accept it? Work with it? All of the above? Take your pick. What you pick will have profound consequences, not only for your own health and well-being, but for the healing of a broken world.  Read on.

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