Last night I started to fall into the trap. I know the writer, but not well. While I can’t imagine he/she was pointing directly at me, it felt as if an all encompassing accusing finger was being raised in my direction. I could feel a giant target being drawn on my chest.
Contradictory knowledge be damned!
My first reaction was to enlighten the writer as to more than a few home truths, but I knew the righteous are rarely swayed. I would merely be feeding the beast. In fact I already was, as evidenced by my own righteous indignation.
In this “either/or,” “Us vs Them,” reductive thinking world, we are all one small step away from guilt by association. By silence. By surface knowledge. By what ever bits and pieces someone decides to cobble together.
So I decided to write a letter to myself instead. In recognition that I too had a finger pointing sinner within.
But it would also be a written declaration and reminder to myself of why not jump on every bandwagon I mostly or even passionately believe in. Why it is vital to continue to find the other parts of an issue or story… Even if no one else wants to listen.
Dear Righteously Indignant (a.k.a. Me),
Let’s talk about the Fallacy of “THE” Story You Know. Have you noticed that “The” story you are so upset over, has a familiar shape, size, and hue.
— It is “The” story you recognize, so it becomes the one you quickly spot.
— It is “The” story that speaks to you, so it becomes the one you listen for.
— It is “The” story you understand, so it becomes the one you validate.
— It is “The” story you feel, so it becomes the one you react to.
— It is “The” story you remember, so it becomes the one you share.
— It is “The” story in your mind, so it becomes the one you live.
Over time, “The” story you know will become heavier in weight but narrower in scope.
— In your comfort in it, you will forget “The” story is incomplete.
— In your focus on it, you will exclude “The” story from co-existing stories.
— In your telling of it, you will stop listening for “The” story’s conflicting knowledge.
— In your passion for it, you will demand action for “The” story over critical thought.
— In your honor to it, you will promote allegiance to “The” story over truth.
Eventually, “The” story you know will come to an unavoidable end.
— It will be beaten down by the fallacy that, pointing fingers of shame at others will elevate your truths.
— It will be shut out by the fallacy that, telling others to sit down and shut up will engage thoughtful listeners.
— It will be squeezed lifeless by the fallacy that, dividing hearts and minds will expand your community and strengthen your allies.
Yes, we each have the right and responsibility to tell our stories and share our truths. But we each also have a responsibility and an obligation to recognize our stories are only part of a bigger story and only one of many truths. None of us are just one story, one side, or one issue. We all have multiple stories that give us multiple bonds with others — even unlikely allies.
We need to let go of the fear and anger shrinking our hearts and hardening our world. We need to stop making assumptions about who belongs on what side of the guilty divide. We can only have better, when we envision and build better. And it can only start when we believe more in the power of finding potential allies and building connecting stories then in imagining dividing lines and identifying enemies to take down.
So if you are ever willing to see more than just “THE” Story You Know, I’d love for us to work together.
Thank you for your consideration,
Righteously Indignant (a.k.a. Me)
I found this TED Talks by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (the image is linked to the video)
The Danger of a Single Story
“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power… Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person…
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…
When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
~~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (The Danger of a Single Story, TED Talks 2009)
So, has anyone else been a sinner or sinned against by any of the “Righteously Indignant” or caught up in the fallacy of “The” story you know?
Are you willing to give them up?