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That Line: Respect for Human Life

Knowing when to step back, and when to step up

It’s important to give people space to fuck up, and it’s important to give yourself space to fuck up. But it’s also important to learn to be able to distinguish when that line is crossed. That line where you need to stop making excuses for others, or for yourself, and recognize that respect for others and yourself is always the most important thing. What I mean by that is this: sometimes we’re caught up in the chaos of life. Sometimes we forget to recognize the unique manifestation of humanity in every person around us. And that’s okay. We can’t always be our best selves at every moment even though sometimes we’d like to believe that we can.

What I’m trying to express is that self respect is just as important as respect for others, though. And maybe sometimes we forget this– especially in activist circles. An argument “for the struggle” should never include a systematic shutting down of another, or a whole group of people. But sometimes when we’re “in the struggle” real deep, we forget this. Or we never realize this in the first place.

Over the past six months I’ve become more and more enmeshed in the activist scene, as much of the so called US has. I’ve intimately looked at two different sides of this situation. In one situation I thought very highly of a person, and give them the benefit of the doubt while I continued to feel emotionally pummeled by them on a daily basis.

“It’s just a stressful time” “I can handle anything for a set amount of time” “I care about being in this activist scene more than I care about how it makes me feel right now” “I believe it will get better.”

The thing is, it never got better. Six months later and I’m still feeling constantly deflated, underappreciated, underutilized, pushed out where I thought I would find empowerment. I found myself being dominated in a place I thought would be non hierarchical bliss, and I found that after a mere six weeks of recently really diving into this project, my confidence in myself had begun to wane.

That’s when you know you need to shut it down.

Challenging authority is a value I hold dear and when that starts to break you, you’ve got to save yourself and get out. Take a breath. Get your confidence back. Hug your friends. Laugh. And then plot how you’re going to shut it down from the outside. Stop arguing and wasting emotional energy with authorities, and refuse to acknowledge it moving forward. Shut it down from the outside with total indifference to it.

Build new institutions. Learn from the past. Respect the humanity in all you meet including yourself and never let “the struggle” override the real goal of finding respect for all human beings on this Earth.

The other scenario I found myself in during this part six months turned out very differently. Or at least there were different lessons to be learned. In this scenario, I was very frustrated with the people waging their part in “the struggle” from the get go. I had different ideas of how they should be going about it, and I was highly judgmental from the get go. This in turn made me not interested in getting to know them better, because I thought I already knew everything they were about. They accepted me though, even loved me from the beginning. But I was os stuck in my own vision of revolution I didn’t take the time to recognize the humanity and the beauty in difference around me. But recently, I have.

What I’m trying to say is it doesn’t take an evil villain to disrespect human life. We all do it at one time or another. And it’s important to never martyr yourself because sometimes you have to teach people how to respect you and draw the lines in the sand yourself. And other times, you’ve got to concede that you drew these lines too early, and it’s stopping you from living your true humanity in community with others.

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

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