What I've Avoided All This Time

On social issues, my word, and humanity in general.

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I thought that simply striving to be a good person was enough. Every time I looked, the chaos outside continued to brim. Negativity building. Cynicism engulfing. And hope slowly fading further and further away.

This didn't sit well with me. As an extremely fearful individual on his own volition, any additional concern, be it pure or artificial, pushed me to the precipice of an unrecoverable downturn.

I used to take pride in my upbringing—the cultural, social, and political values I identified with—as I grew my comprehension. However, the other side of the coin was a nasty divide that came about when the subject matter was actually discussed. People took this stuff seriously — perhaps a little too seriously — and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too close.

In a moment, I abandoned discussing items and inquiries within these “taboo” realms, taking a permanent seat on the fence.

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With these problem areas free from my present and future, I directed my efforts on contributing to society laterally. I may not choose to address certain social issues head on, but being a good person should make up for that, right?

It was all well and good until I would be on the receiving end of the dreaded question: Dan, where do you stand? Particularly when the asker was someone I had a high respect and admiration for. I deferred as best I could, but over time, people weren’t buying my responses. They were fluff. Misdirections. And collectively, all rooted in apathy.

When it comes to things people care about, irrespective if you agree with what they’re sharing or not, responding with apathy probably isn’t the best approach to roll with. It took one too many deflated reactions from people that truly mattered to me for me to finally get it.

I’m not in the conversation. I just say what’s on my mind.

Refusing to step into the conversation communicates a few things: 1) I’m not listening 2) I don’t respect what they have to say and 3) What I’m interested in matters most.

Yeah, ouch.

Here’s the deal: Despite the content of the discussion not being at the peak of my list of interesting topics, despite how uncomfortable I may get, despite the backlash I may receive in response, and despite that my opinion may make no difference whatsoever, these are my people. We are all we have. Each other is it. No one’s coming to bail us out. We either figure it out how to live harmoniously, in acceptance of one another, and take responsibility, or we watch the world burn. I don’t see much in between.

When social issues are brought up, it’s a communication that humanity is suffering. I can either get on the field and contribute something — anything — or I can remain watching from the sidelines, continuing to blow off what a vast collective is upset over. Eye-rolling, looking the other way, or pretending I didn't hear isn’t making a difference for anyone — and that’s not what I want my life to stand for.

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With the recent rumblings in the media on the topic of sexual assault, I don’t have all the information available. I took that as enough justification for me to check out of the dialogue when my mother and a close friend of mine brought up each of their respective views on the matter, both with a deep personal connection to what’s at stake in the conversation.

Yes, I don’t have all the information. Does anyone else? With each case, at least two people do. Maybe a handful more, I’m really not sure. Either way, that’s a pretty small percentage— yet seemingly everyone’s talking about it. Why? Because it’s important. It matters. People matter. People deserve to be listened to. They deserve to let out their voice. They deserve to tell their story. This is fundamental to being a human being. We’ve stopped giving a shit about each other, myself included. I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life judging and evaluating, and I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty fucking miserable way to live.

Compassion is king, and we’re nearing the end of our supply. My mother and my friend both shared with me their personal viewpoints and emotions related to this type of behavior, and I said nothing.

Why?

Because I haven’t wanted to be at the source of what I’ve said. I haven’t wanted to put myself at risk — potentially invalidated, criticized, mocked, or made a fool of.

I’ve been a fucking coward.

Voices matter. This filtering system for what deserves to be listened to versus not listened to isn’t working. It’s rooted in fear, ignorance, and self-centeredness.

I haven’t used my voice to its full capacity, also out of fear. There’s no nobility in that. I’m not standing for anything. I’m simply existing. Taking up space. Floating. Sucking up resources. I either go to bat every time my name is called to the plate or I don’t play the game at all.

This has nothing to do with anyone else and what they choose — your choice is your choice. Just like your voice, you have a right to selection. This has to do with me, my lack of compassion, leadership and word in the matter.

Countless — literally countless — women have been impacted by unwanted actions of a sexual nature, and I’ve turned the other cheek. I couldn’t even so much as listen to the context of the recall without tuning out — almost as boorish as performing the unwanted actions themselves.

Do I think a men vs. women war is necessary? No, but I do think a better understanding by men on the crux of what’s inherently important to women and vice versa will begin to make a dent.

What I always viewed as a bad hand, having a (somewhat) fluid sexuality is actually one of my gifts. I’m able to empathize and connect with both men and women, masculine and feminine, and most everything in between or on the fringe.

And I intend to use it to make a difference.

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We all have different world views, ideas of how things should be, and what’s fair and just. Whatever ones are out there circulating, we ought to respect. They came into existence through someone seeing, hearing, or feeling something very close to their heart — whether it came from an actual experience, the guidance of a beloved family member, or simply something they decided for themselves. Without these differing opinions and views feeling a sense of understanding, nothing will move. Nothing will change, and we’ll be cursed to our current momentum.

Whether what’s being said happened or not, it’s still cry for help. We’ve numbed ourselves to these because we can’t sacrifice the time or energy to hear people out (the fear of loss and not enough is clearly alive and well). We simply respond to the cry for help with another cry for help.

This isn’t about agreement. This is about being there. Yes, we have to get to an agreement at some point — even if it’s to disagree — but ultimately, this is about getting outside of ourselves and the arrogance that plagues the human race.

I don’t know what I don’t know, and neither do you. Yes, we have mirror neurons that operate like a bullshit meter, but even those fail us at times. Agreement, harmony and love will continue to elude us if we continue to drop the ball with our unwillingness to remain curious, open-minded, and empathetic.

When a person feels heard, sometimes  (not all the time, but sometimes)   that’s enough to cause a profound difference. The rigid, sharp dismissals are not a product of who we really are at the core. They’re a product of survival, embedded in a fear of what we don’t want to believe actually being true.

We operated from curiosity and wonder as children, and somewhere along the way that got lost in lieu of protecting ourselves. “Gotta look out for Number One,” some were told. Interestingly enough, the number one becomes whatever number it’s multiplied by — so if 1 is the only number getting any attention, it’ll never evolve into anything bigger.

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Where do we draw the line? I don’t know. But I think the better question is:

What do we want to stand for when we’re dead and gone?

What legacy will we leave behind?

What are we willing to give our all for and potentially get nothing in return?

Who am I?

Who are you?

Who are we?

What transcends these constructed identities?

As musician Trevor Hall simply put, “What’s inside of you, is what’s inside of me.”

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To anyone ever affected by violence of a sexual nature, no matter the degree, my heart goes out to you. I’m here to listen now. I’m sorry I haven’t been there. I’m here — really here. To listen. To learn. To love. Whatever you need.

To anyone who’s ever created false allegations to get even with someone, I’m here for you, as well. Living life that way isn’t worth it. John Gorman writes, “If you’re focused on getting even, you can never get ahead.” Whatever you’re dealing with that caused you to venture that far out on the olive branch, I want to hear and help as best I can — the issue might be hidden from your view.

And to those that have committed crimes of a sexual nature before, I’m still not totally clear on exactly what to say to you yet. I will say, I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I’m sorry the pain sat with you long enough to spill out in such a frenzy. I don’t decide your fate, but one bit of golden advice I’ll share with you before those who do take action:

If you want love, you must first give it.

You don’t get to take.

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