Don’t Criticize

I was told by a fellow Girl Scout leader the other day that if I didn’t want to do the work myself (regarding a certain aspect of our Service Unit duties performed by another volunteer) that I shouldn’t criticize. And it pissed me off people.

Girl Scouts, just like this nation, is a democracy. It’s run by hundreds of people, some paid and some not, but all of who are striving for the good of the many over the individual. Now, sometimes these people are doing it the way we think they should and sometimes they are not. But the whole point of a democracy is to make it ok for everyone to have a say. Everyone affected by any decision has a right to stand up and say, “hey wait a minute, I don’t think that’s ok.”

But many of us were raised to respect authority. To not question authority. Certainly, even if I hadn’t been raised by my particular parents, I would have had this lesson in school. It’s only in recent years that childrens’ voices have been given value and space. Before that, we were told the teacher is the boss and we had better do what they say and shut up about it, otherwise you got detention or suspension or a visit to the principal’s office at the very least. So we learned not to speak up. We learned that our future lay in the hands of these people, fair or not, and if we risked angering them or challenging them it could affect our grades, our college choice, our jobs, our whole lives possibly.

So now we have to unlearn this fear. Especially those of us with privilege. Enough people are silenced due to the color of their skin, their choice of love partners, their country of origin. What am I going to suffer if I anger someone? It doesn’t really make it easier does it? Fear is a strong demotivator. Maybe we will be ostracized in our friend circles. Maybe we will be flamed or attacked online by friends or strangers. Maybe we will find out just how alone we are in our position.

Because that is one of the results. You find out what your friends and family truly think about those issues you speak up about. You are going to be disappointed, horrified, crushed maybe, by the fact that those you love are prejudiced. It makes you feel unsafe. When I realize people aren’t who I assumed they were I start getting paranoid. I start walking around looking at everyone with suspicion. Are they “against” me? Is that person a Trump voter?

And it feels personal right now. Because the truths I hold self evident feel so important and the other side just makes no sense to me. Because I believe that what they are thinking actually hurts people I know, physically, emotionally, and even financially. So it feels like it hurts me too. I empathize with those abused and discriminated against. I feel their pain as if it were my own. How do I shake hands with the abuser?

Fear of confrontation is at the base of it. It has been a theme throughout most of my writing. But this is a democracy. Even though at this nation’s creation there was not inclusion of women and blacks, the intent was to have the voice of the many prevail. Everyone is supposed to get a word in if they want to. They may not carry the day but they get to speak. Unfortunately, the voices we hear the best are the most privileged and the ones who get trampled and lay unheard in the dust are those who are not. The poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the minorities all deserve a voice too. And they deserve to be able to use that voice without fear of repercussions. They deserve to be seen as equals with equal right to safety and choice in their leadership. They deserve to be able to walk the street next to you and me and feel no fear for their physical or emotional selves. They deserve to be free.