110: MMM - On Power and Stories and Orlando
I wrote this and shared it over on the This Moved Me Facebook page and my newsletter, and got quite a response… And so I thought it might be worth sharing here, as well.
When I was in grad school, I was searching for a thread in my work that I couldn't figure out how to express. It was in the middle of the second George W. Bush election and I was trying to figure out why people were moved by him, and why some people were so immovable in their beliefs. I was being bounced around by so many ideas and thoughts and I came to my advisor, red-faced and quietly angry and speechlessly frustrated, and she said to me - "Don't talk to anyone for 24 hours. Just find some space and think. Read. Write. And we'll talk again tomorrow."
So off I went - trying to figure out what was going on - not just with me, but with the world. It seems so silly now, George Bush. So small and petty and even harmless compared to what we are dealing with now, but that's where the world was and what I was wrestling with.
It took me 23.5 hours to realize that I felt powerless. I felt powerless to change people's minds.
That is a dark place to get to when your career - your belief system - your hope for the world depends on the belief that we can change and get better and find new ways of thinking and being. That we evolve. That we are transformational people. That the universe bends towards progress.
But in finally finding the word that I had been searching for - powerless - I felt some strange relief. Realizing I couldn't change everything helped me realize what I could change.
I was brought back to that feeling when I read about Brock Turner - and the injustice in his sentencing - it made me afraid for my daughters and anguished about raising a son - and it made me so angry that if this was a black man he would be in prison for years.
And when I woke up Sunday morning I heard a little something about a shooting in Orlando on NPR. It wasn't said with any particular tone of sadness (that's public radio for you, I suppose), and how unbelievably sad is it when a shooting has become so commonplace it hardly made me pause?
But then I heard it was targeted at gay people. It was during Pride. It was at a gay bar, what should be a bastion, a safe space, where you can be free.
And in that moment I broke just a little bit. Powerless.
And I've been searching for the words to share my grief and express how aghast I am. And that, in the aftermath, there are people who are blaming Muslims as a whole and not blaming guns at all and not expressing grief because they were gay - and it just. it just. I feel so powerless to change it all.
We ARE powerless to change it all. But we are not POWERLESS.
We can tell stories. We can humanize this world by making each faceless, too commonplace, generalized tragedy something real with a STORY. The stories are the way back IN to each other. We desperately need a way back in. This is how change happens.
Keep sharing the stories.
In solidarity and with so much love, Sally
Last week I was at the national speech an debate tournament.. I was a high school speech kid – loved it so much – and was invited to Utah to speak and honor my coaches who have had tremendous success in the world of original oratory, which was the category I did in high school. If you’re NOT a speech person, OO is persuasive speaking – which is my JAM. And sitting there, I was reminded why. There was a fantastic video about the impact of speech and why it’s so valuable and important – and one of the students said something like, “We have to use our voice. The world needs us.” And that is so, so true. It’s not just true for these young people who have grown up in such a different world than the one I did – but for ALL of us. It’s a reminder that our words – our voices – our stories – really CAN do something.
Thanks for joining me on the journey to create more talks that move the world. It’s more important now than ever