When trying to find the perfect quote to begin this blog post, I could not choose one. I wanted to find a quote that encompasses my frustration with the people who pretend to care or who feel no responsibility or obligation to help within their means. I wanted to find something that would shock these people but not insult them, because these are people that I love dearly, which is likely why I am this frustrated. I am trying to help an organization that is fighting for LGBTQI rights in Uganda, where it is now ILLEGAL TO BE GAY. Illegal. They are hiding in camps waiting to afford a plane ticket. They are having their medication for kidney failure cut off at the hospital until they can pay. They are being beaten in body and in spirit. And for as many people as I explain this to, a small group of you cares or perhaps tolerates me talking about it. A smaller, albeit strong group cared enough to help, and I will get to that shortly. But first, here are three of my favorites, because I think they do the job. First, from Elie Wiesel:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
This is to say that I understand you aren’t Yoweri Museveni, signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda or his wife, backing him up with pseudo-science. I understand that you aren’t Scott Lively, the Massachusetts man in charge of this movement, and I understand that most of those of you who are missionaries are not the ones spreading these messages of hate, but instead messages of love. But I also understand that most of you so far haven’t felt compelled to help. I understand this hesitance though. While I am begging for donations to one organization, it’s possible that you have a cause you are working towards as well. That cause is no less valiant than the others, and it is likely that it is not within your means to give money to every cause nor to everything you care about. Because I believe that you care. While this organization will truly benefit from every penny and I cannot stress that enough, it doesn’t cost anything to share a Facebook or Twitter post or to strike up a conversation about what’s going on in the world. While this organization truly needs money right now, we can’t forget about the power of awareness. Secondly, from Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Here we have a classic case of privilege and tragedy of the commons, with the common depleted resource, in this case, humans. All of us have privilege to some degree (if you haven’t read The Invisible Knapsack yet, here it is), but we can all agree that some of us are more privileged than others, especially in certain situations. In this situation, I have the privilege of being a heterosexual person from the United States. I also have the privilege of being able to ignore what is currently happening in Uganda and the rest of the world and I have the privilege of not being obligated to act by anyone but myself. If I so choose, I could pretend it wasn’t happening. Maybe someone would tell me about the anti-gay violence, I could say “what a shame,” and go on with my life without major pressure to act otherwise. A wise TA of mine once told me that although we need to learn how to sit with our privilege, we also need to learn how to use it responsibly. All it takes is for a person in a position of privilege to do this is to “know that listening to the concerns of those marginalized groups with less power is not an “enforced silence” being imposed upon them. It’s not some sort of joke. It’s simply a respectful quiet, contemplative moment where voices not as loud as your own can be heard and fully considered” (source). And lastly, a quote from Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why:
“A lot of you cared, just not enough.”
Again. I believe that you care. Most of us, as rational human beings, do want to do good. We do want to help. But many of us, because of our privilege that allows us to ignore the bad in the world and justify our neutral actions, take advantage of that privilege. Maybe we don’t believe we can really make a difference with our small donation or we want to see where exactly that money goes. I know that when I supported a girl from this LGBTQI organization to seek asylum in Kenya, I was slightly relieved to receive her email with pictures as “proof” that I could pat myself on the back knowing that my money was going where it belonged and making a difference. But I do think that a lot of us hope that someone else will take care of it. Things have gone alright for us so far, so we expect someone else to pick up the slack. We may get angry about world problems or what the president is or isn’t doing this time. but most of the time it ends there, or at most in a screaming match with your uncle about who should have voted for who. Most of us tend to react something like this: Fuck the Poor
I am in that same position a lot of the time. I am currently writing from my host family’s home in Granada, Spain where I have had the privilege to study since January. From here, I will be traveling to various countries in Europe. I had considered traveling back to Uganda as well this summer, but it felt wrong to buy myself a round-trip ticket when instead I could fund the flights of two people whose lives are literally on the line, to safety. I am still torn about whether I will continue traveling because I know my money has the potential of being better spent. (If this interests you, check out a summary of Peter Singer’s discussion on utilitarianism and redefining charity in Famine, Affluence and Morality). I hope that this time, we don’t ignore what’s happening. I hope that this time, we can own our privilege and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.
I hope that this time, things are different.
I hope that this time, you will not only care, but you will care enough.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Donate here to an organization that I know personally that is struggling to save the lives of so many individuals (note, the donation should be marked as going to Kristy Boyce Photography. This is to protect their bank account).
3. Share this information with friends and family and everyone on the street. While I too was hesitant to be that kind of social media-er, I decided that an annoying online presence (at worst) was worth the possibility of helping.