To The Facebook Friends Who are Tired of my “Politics”

(I’m tired too.)

I’m exhausted. I’m weak. I’m devastated.

I’m dragging tired eyes across my Newsfeed at 4am with a fervidity that eats at me. I was always told that ignorance is our enemy, but knowledge is the thing that’s pressing down on me, like a pillow to the face — making it harder to see, making it harder to breathe.

I go under but I’m still swimming down, like maybe if I read everything, know everything, feel everything… then maybe I can fight it. Fix it.

Consume it, like circus performers who swallow knives, who swallow fire. Maybe I could hold the flame inside my body and smother it.

Does it matter if it burns my throat on the way down, when I’m surrounded by fire-walkers who have taught themselves not to feel the hot coals they’ve been forced to walk upon every day of their lives? Who are booed by the crowd in comfortable shoes when they stumble and fall, when they decide they simply can’t live this way anymore?

Does it matter if there are embers in my belly when the taste of ash has not left my brothers’ and sisters’ mouths for generations, when they’re still not allowed to breathe fire — unless it’s for sport, unless it’s for those who don’t know the feeling of blisters on their tongues?

I understand why you run from the flame, why you turn the other way.

I agree, it is not pleasant to watch, to walk closer.

But can’t you hear them?

Our people are burning.

They are choking on smoke, disappearing beneath a crumbling inferno they did not ask for, did not create.

We’ve abandoned them to a fate of silent incineration, while those who were meant to help them tell us whatever they must tell us to keep us at bay.

We needn’t get our hands dirty, needn’t get soot on our church clothes.

“Let them quietly cauterize their wounds,” they say. “Remember — they’re the ones who lit it anyway.”

Some days, when they’ve pushed us far enough away, and the air has stopped smelling like smoke and singed hair, when a pleasant breeze blows away the last of the dust and haze, we look back —

But all that can be seen is a dark cloud, somewhere far away. It doesn’t seem dangerous. It’s suddenly difficult to remember if there was ever any fire at all, and even if there was — wouldn’t someone have put it out by now?

This is when we must make our choice.

Option One:

Keep walking. Find peace. Live a life free from the flames.

Brush the ashes from our fingertips. Forget.

Except for, now and then, when we wake up in the middle of the night, and the room smells like smoke and screams and running and running.

Option Two:

Go back.

Bring water.

Bring help.

Cry, “Fire! FIRE!” at those who cannot see it, those with their backs turned.

Ignore those who ask us to lower our voices.

(The screams don’t tear at the throat likes the smoke does.)

Stay loud. Stay strong. Stay awake.

Pass the bucket down the line, try not to spill a drop.

Tell them we’re sorry. Tell them we’re coming.

Tell them that, with enough heat and pressure, they might become diamonds — but don’t worry, we’ll get you out before we know for sure.

Remember that, as exhausting as this is, there are those that have been fighting longer and harder; there are some who came from the fire first, who escaped hell only to turn around and jump right back in.

Remember, though there are blisters on their vocal chords, their words are the ones we need to hear.

Remember, too, that not everyone will listen for them.

Remember that some will have chosen to forget.

Do not let them.

Option three:

Burn.

This is the decision we must make, and I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you didn’t choose this, that you don’t want any part of it. I’m sorry if I’m making it difficult for you to ignore the carnage that surrounds you and live the life you were promised.

I’m sorry I’m taking that peace away from you.

But I don’t know what else to do.

And I know, you’re tired.

I’m tired too.

But can’t you hear them?

~ Liz Ruddy, 2017 | Facebook | Website | Twitter |