It Didn’t Have to Be This Way
Understanding the Pain of the World and the Urgency to Take Action Against Patriarchy
“Feeling the pain of the world all of the time is so heavy.” I wrote that years ago in a journal. It was a futile attempt to describe how images of children starving, animals suffering, or nature being annihilated impact me. It is why, some 37 years after the movie’s release, I still have nightmares about the movie “The Killing Fields.” It is why I consider the murder of primatologist Dian Fossey one of the most heinous and heartbreaking crimes of humanity. It is why images of Emmett Till’s broken and battered body, as his mother stood over him looking down on her baby, still haunt me. It is why I feel the violation of the ancestors on whose land I now inhabit who were brutally forced from it. A forced migration westward on what is known as the “Trail of Death,” which few Americans know about even though more Indigenous natives died on the Trail of Death than on the Trail of Tears.
It is why I’m awake in the middle of the night to write a blog that some will get, and others will scoff at.
“Geez, lighten up, Karla.” I’ve been told that a time or two in my life. Once said, it was my cue that those in my presence would no longer tolerate my over-obsessing on whatever topic we were discussing. That was my cue to take it down a notch. After all, no one wants to feel personal responsibility for the condition we humans find ourselves in. Admittedly, I’m triggered by “Well, what can ya do about it?” While someone then shifts the conversation immediately to topics that have been elevated to equal importance in our society—sports and the Kardashians.
So, sue me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll look forward to watching my grandchildren race around the track or dribble the ball down court as any other grandmother. But when the cost of a trophy for a college football semi-final championship game could single-handedly solve the housing crisis in Detroit, Michigan?
I’ve got a problem with our priorities.
“Well, what can you do about it?”
I’ll admit I have triggers. Lack of personal accountability is one of them. But the truth is that the “arm-chair quarterbacking for all things in life including our dying planet and the pain existing in our humanity” archetype has gotten us into this mess. We believed that we were free to become experts at arm-chair quarterbacking because someone else was responsible for and subsequently actually doing the work.
That left us free to move on to sports and the Kardashians.
Except it isn’t the way our story is ending, is it?
Barely into the 21st century, our story is one where we got lazy and complicit and apathetic and gluttonous and selfish and distracted.
I’ll admit that even as I have struggled with my empathic tendencies, I ignored politics. I just assumed that democracy was solid, and we were free to put that on autopilot. Sure, I’d do my part and vote and dabble in social justice, but change was happening.
And that was good, right?
Why politics in America is broken
It’s broken because the foundation upon which it was built was broken. We’ve done our best to widen that foundation with amendments that would expand the meaning of “all men are created equal.”
Except there’s one small problem. The founders wrote what they wrote because they meant it just as they wrote it—all white Euro-centric males were equal.
Astonishingly, here in the 21st century, we have Americans who want us to revert back to the founders’ original meaning and wipe out amendments that give Black people the right to exist as humans and women the right to simple freedoms like—oh I don’t know—owning property without her husband’s permission.
How silly of us to be alarmed that these originalists not only believe this, they sit in positions of power in our government, even more alarming, on the highest court in the land.
It isn’t time to give up—it’s time to get to work
If you’re still reading, then you care.
But there are some assumptions that must be eradicated about what life looks like going forward.
What are they? I’m glad you asked.
—> Use your time: Personal responsibility extends beyond arm-chair quarterbacking. Each of us needs to be aware of what is happening on the local, state and national levels. Find and follow people who can help inform you, then get involved writing letters, making calls and supporting candidates that will protect the rights of all humans and who care about our planet and all of its inhabitants. Get involved with organizations that are influencing change and giving instructions on when and where to show up to show support. I’ll include them in the resources at the bottom.
—> Use your voice: Become informed about Christian nationalism and the danger it poses to our nation. Get versed in talking points so that when politics arise (and they will) you can be a part of dismantling any conspiracy type discussions that romanticize their extremist right thought.
—> Use your resources: Give what you can to the extent you can to those who are sounding the alarm about Christian nationalism.
—> Use your brain: There is always another way to get us out of the problems we face. You may have the next best idea or solution.
It didn’t have to be this way, but still—I have hope
This section in and of itself could be an essay on the failure of humans, but I’ll keep it short with a fly-over summary.
We did have choices. From the time when humans became aware and began to ask, “who are we” and “how did we get here,” we moved toward power structures that relied on the suppression of rights for some so that those in power could elevate and protect their way of life.
It’s horribly flawed and inarguably racist, xenophobic and misogynistic.
The tension we find ourselves in today is the collective pain of this flawed system failing as those responsible for keeping it afloat grow weary and angry, demanding there is a better way for humanity to exist.
And they are right.
But systems of oppression don’t just die and drift willingly off into the sunset.
They flail wildly, enraged and offended that their day of reckoning is upon them, and they are being held accountable for the sins of their ancestors that they willingly perpetuated for their continued gain and gluttony.
We are in those days, as patriarchy takes its final gasps of breath, it furiously lashes out and will annihilate anything or anyone within its reach, convinced it can still live even if it means large swaths of humanity must die.
After all they’ve done so willingly in the past, right? Isn’t that the history that they want told? The one that turns the trail of death into a happy caravan where the natives smiled and waved goodbye as Jackson’s army threw flower petals and offered an abundance of food for their journey westward.
There—that history is much better than the brutal reality that native children died each day as they traversed out west.
Make no mistake about it—patriarchy deserves to die.
And it is we who must continue the pressure to ensure its demise.
This is why I have hope.
But I say that with caution, because hope is a fallacy. It can make us complacent and lazy, convincing us that our arm-chair quarterbacking is somehow making a difference in the world, because we hope that those who are doing the work are heeding our advice from the comfort of our chairs.
Hope is actionable.
Steadfast in its laser-focused for the work that must be done to ensure that patriarchy's death throes will signal a new era has arrived. One in which this table of humanity is no longer gate-kept by the white, euro-centric Christian male.
I say this with as much passion as I can type—to hell with that.
Hell as a human-made construct is the reality we create here on earth. As such, patriarchy qualifies as pure hell, because under the weight of this oppressive system, humanity has suffered greatly.
Its time is up.
We are choosing another way.
Because it should have never been this way.
And to that I say….
For all the ancestors who suffered under the toxicity of patriarchy.
For those today who are rejecting the toxicity of patriarchy.
For future generations who will live free from the toxicity of patriarchy.
Amen and blessed be.