Stories from exile is a writer's collaborative, bringing you stories written by outsiders in christianity, politics and culture.

 

edited and curated by

nish weiseth

The Privilege of "Off"

I remember seeing lots of people express excitement over the ending of “The Dumpster Fire that was 2016.” I remember reading that and wondering if 2017 was really shaping up to be any better. Sure, the election was over, but wouldn’t that mean we were just heading into an even bigger dumpster fire? Perhaps even a four year blaze?

If these first two and a half weeks (Dear God, has it only been two and a half weeks!?) are any indication, then perhaps we are looking at four years of fiendfyre. An unquenchable blaze that seeks to devour everyone and everything in its path. I can’t help but feel the heat licking at my heels each time I read the news or open Facebook or Twitter. “What’s on fire today?” I wonder.

 

When Off is Self-Care

I have begun turning things off, Facebook, Twitter, push notifications from news sources. Because if I don’t a whole day goes by and I forget to eat, I forget that my son needs a nap, I forget to make dinner or the bed, or I forget to brush my teeth. So I have started taking breaks, and if reports from friends are any indication, others are taking these breaks, too.

It is difficult to consider a walk outside with my son in the fresh Winter air an act of resistance, though with the potential end of the EPA in sight, perhaps this is just one of my daily acts of protest now. It is difficult to see the acts of daily life as bits of resistance, but where there is so much hate front and center these days, isn’t even the smallest act of love—a note left out for my husband to read with his morning coffee, tickling my son just to see the delight on his face, meeting another new mom and her babe for coffee—an act of rebellion? I think so, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

 

When Off is Privilege

Sometimes, after turning things off, it is difficult to turn them on again. The night of the Inauguration (I can’t help thinking “January 20 2017, a day that will live in infamy” every time I think of that day), my husband and I talked about how we could put our heads down and look up four years later and probably mostly be okay. We are both white. We are both Christians. We are both heterosexuals who are physically and mentally healthy by the standards of our insurance company. One of us can’t really keep her mouth shut, but maybe that could be remedied if it meant the safety of our family.

But.

What about everyone else who won’t be okay? What about everyone else who doesn’t share our privileged position? People can't just stop being black or Muslim or LGBTQ. Tuning out and turning off the news indefinitely is a privilege. And if I am tired after only an eighteen month election cycle and two and a half weeks of a presidency, imagine what those who have been fighting this fight for decades and centuries must feel like? 

So, on that infamous night, my husband and I looked at each other and we promised to pay attention. Even when paying attention doesn’t benefit us directly. We promised to not just pay attention but to be active in our resistance. To make phone calls and attend town halls. To speak up publicly in places and situations we have previously remained silent. To teach our son and any future children that might come along that our lives are not our own. We were bought with a price, and that sacrifice is not just so we might one day be reunited with our Savior. That sacrifice is our path, it is a blueprint for how we are called to live and to die—not for ourselves but for others.

Turn off social media. Set down the newspaper. 

Love your family big and loud and deep and hard.

Then check back in. To whom has our Savior tuned and turned your heart? What bit of news, what newest executive order, what piece of legislation tugs at your heart so hard you can feel the flames licking at your heels and your eyes start to burn with tears? Pay attention. Call your Senators, your Representative. Write a post card. Make a donation. Listen to others who are veterans in this particular fight. Show up to a town hall meeting and listen to the other voices in the room.

It is true that Jesus rested and sought quiet places to pray and be alone. And it was in those quiet times that the Father restored him so that he might continue loving and serving the least and the lost, the marginalized, those weary from living under the boot of the empire. So go and rest, seek solace in the arms of the Father, and let that time fill you, that you might go out again, following in the footsteps of our Savior, living and dying for the sake of others.

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