I wouldn’t call myself a slacker. I wouldn’t because I know, deep down, that I’m not. I’m busy with work, I have a(n admittedly mellow) social life, I keep my house (relatively) clean and tidy, and I do my best to keep up with the goings on in the world. Even so, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being well acquainted with the “meh, good enough” half-hearted shoulder shrug. It would also be a lie to tell you that the shrug is a rarity in my world.
Most of the time I don’t mind the shrug. In fact, I’ve been working to embrace the shrug because being able to say “at least I tried,” or “that’ll do; it doesn’t have to be perfect” is something that I think is important to be able to do.
Then there are nights like last night and days like today. There are days when the emotions run high and it feels like we’re all hanging on by the thinnest of threads. We watch as a too-smug Prosecutor announces that the State will not be charging the police officer who murdered an unarmed man. We watch as he blames the victim, the crowds of protesters, the media and everybody except the man who actually wielded the gun. We watch as police officers fire tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters and as the media choose to focus primarily on the few not-so peaceful protestors who decided to take their frustrations out on their surroundings. We watch and we read because it feels like changing the channel, closing the tab or turning the page feels like turning our backs. Choosing to focus elsewhere feels like saying “you are not as important as this other trivial thing.” It feels like flaunting the fact that we can choose whether or not we pay attention to those for whom that same choice is, at best, a pipe dream.
So we keep watching. We watch from our safe and warm homes and we are keenly aware of how privileged and lucky we are to not be out on the street, trying to stay safe, fighting for our lives at every moment of the day and it hurts. It hurts because if we could take some of that luck and privilege and just hand it over to someone who needs it, we would do it. We would hand it over so fast.
And then we feel guilty for hurting because who are we to hurt? We’re warm and safe and fed and our pets are snuggling and oh poor us, high up in our ivory apartments, we have to feel things! Life is so hard when you have to feel things!
There are, of course, ways that we can help. We can donate books and funds to the Ferguson library. We can write to our local and leaders and representatives and beg for a body camera for every police officer. We can donate to rebuilding funds and to funds to help the people arrested during the protests. We can speak out against racism and be good allies to those who need us. There are lots of things we can do and even when we do all of them, they never feel like enough. They never feel like enough because they aren’t enough. They might never be enough, but they are better than nothing.
There is something very wrong with the world when “well, it’s better than nothing” is the best that most of us can do.