In the early 2000s, I was in a bar with a girlfriend and we were gearing up to do a karaoke jam to a Dixie Chicks song. Unbeknownst to the horror about to ensue, the fast-paced music swelled, our feet tapped and I enthusiastically bellowed out the first verse of the country tune.
Cutting through the music came bursts of chest-thundering gunfire, then screams from the bar on the main level. The DJ pushed through me and my friend ... to run where? I did not know. We were in the basement of the bar and there was no way I was running upstairs toward the unknown insanity. My friend pulled me under a podium and there we held each other until the police stormed down the stairs.
It was chaotic in that dark basement, but I could see clearly that the police ran straight for a young black man, pushing him to the floor. As the officers wrestled him to the ground, we screamed at them, “He didn’t do anything!” And he didn’t. This guy had been sipping beers with his friends as I belted out a cringe-worthy rendition of “Goodbye Earl” and had nothing to do with what was going on upstairs.
Other people began to protest that this guy shouldn’t have his face shoved into the ground and handcuffed, but still, we were told to be quiet. The police then rounded us up and sent us upstairs and out to the beer garden where we waited to give our names. One by one, we were questioned. My contact information was written down, and while I stood in the bar, I looked around in disbelief at what I saw. There was so much blood – on the floor, on the bar, on the walls – looking down I saw a person on the floor, motionless.
Lately, I have been recalling that experience. Shootings in public places have become horrifyingly more common, as has the verbal abuse and harassment against people who don’t “look” American, or do “look” like they might be trouble. It sickens me. So much that I long for the day when some ignoramus decides to belittle an individual in front of me so I can stand up and put narrow-mindedness to shame.
Why don’t more of us stand up for big injustices? Because often, we can’t even confront the little indignities in our own lives, like gossiping and judgmental attitudes in our own circles of friends. The chaos we see on a national and global scale starts with individuals, and while I’m supportive of rallying against violence in any form, the bottom line is we need to conquer the ignorance in ourselves and our neighbors before we can seek out and overcome the evil in the world.
It’s time to be brave. Brave enough to confront our own issues and seek help.
It’s time to stand up to everyday gossip and judgment. To call it out, no matter how awkward and embarrassing.
It’s time to walk away from conversations that take away our peace. This includes ringing in on conversations on social media platforms.
Speaking as a recovering gossipy idiot, I know the impact of being called out as a “cretin.” It made me mad at first and then uncomfortable. Then for days I replayed the scene in my head bouncing various “better” ways to respond to the person who confronted me. After a while, the realization that I was the problem sunk in, and I had regret.
Initially, the avoidance of ever feeling that embarrassed again was the motive for not gossiping about people. This small seed of discipline grew into a more mature attitude about life and then, an outlook of compassion toward others.
One by one, we can change our little worlds, and then, eventually, change the great big world out there. Surround yourself with people who don’t mock what they don’t understand, yet also be willing to invite them back in once you see the change in their spirit.
Miss Amy Poehler said it best: “I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.”
Smitten with domestic life but not to the point of unhealthy obsession, “The Modern Domestic Woman” author and St. Charles resident, Elizabeth Rago, is a freelance writer. You can visit her blog at thecircularhome.com or connect with Rago on Facebook at facebook.com/TheModernDomesticWoman. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.