Friday, April 16, 2010

National Day of Silence

Happy Friday, folks. I wanted to take a moment to draw your attention to Audrey's latest post on the Ms Blog: the post is titled "“Day of Silence” Protests Anti-LGBT Bullying." As Audrey's post explains:

On April 16, hundreds of thousands will choose silence as a way to “speak out” for a good cause. Around the country, students from middle schools, junior highs, high schools, colleges and universities will take part in the 15th Annual Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). By remaining silent for all or part of the day, participating students will symbolically call attention to the silence surrounding anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

The rhetoric of anger & intolerance is most certainly heating up in this country, & the atmosphere it creates brings with it a sense of foreboding. Perhaps if young people can find a way toward more tolerance & acceptance, we can have some hope for a future where anger & hatred aren't the national political norm. It will be a long struggle to reach a tolerable level of live & let live. William S. Burroughs once characterized the U.S. as a country "where nobody minds their own business." This characteristic hasn't diminished in the years since Burroughs made that statement.

To my mind, the national mood of intolerance & the phenomenon of schoolhouse bullying about sexual orientation are cut from the same cloth. It should be noted also that such bullying often expands it field to include all sorts of "otherness." On the National Day of Silence website, there's a story about an 11-year-old boy who took his own life after being harrassed about his sexual orientation despite the fact that he didn't identify himself as gay. An isolated incident? I don't know from statistics, but I can tell you I suffered the same harrassment - both verbal & physical - in grade school & early high school years & I myself am straight. But I didn't fit the "mold." So this Day of Silence is about accepting our brothers & sisters who are gay, but it's also about accepting those who don't "fit."

One small thing we can do is spread the word. If you're on Twitter, please consider tweeting a link to Audrey's Ms. Blog piece and start your tweet #ff @dayofsilence. It would be great if the National Day of Silence could be #1 on Twitter's "follow Friday." Why would this be important? Anyone who watches or listens to any form of news in this country knows that politicians are mad for statistics. A show of support for the National Day of Silence on Twitter would send a message.

Thanks for your time!


  1. John, I am so moved by what you add to this discussion. Your words help to make the world a better place--for everyone. Well done!

  2. Hi Audrey: Thanks a lot! Hope it'll get some folks thinking, even if I'm mostly preaching to the choir.

  3. thanks audrey and john for drawing attention to the national day of silence. this has been going on for 15 years, but unfortunately, this is the first I've heard of this important day of action.

    let's hope that the silence is deafening and loudly calls attention to this issue and to recognize that lgbt rights are human rights!

    thank you

  4. Hi Mouse: & great big thanks from all of us at RFB!

  5. I am glad you posted this. Bullying in elementary & high schools is prevalent in every state in our nation. Our lack of tolerance & respect for sexual orientation, cultures, religions, etc. is seen daily. If our young people can change this attitude perhaps there is hope for our nation.

  6. Hi Lizzy: Thanks! Let's hope for hope!

  7. Bullying Is Unaceptable whatever the "reason".More Power To Your Collective Elbows !

  8. Dearest John,
    this post was so beautiful, and also one of the many fruits of the various virtual collaborations between you and Audrey.

    So right on about America being a country where we have serious difficulty understanding what it is to mind our own business. (It's worth noting the wording of "Thou shalt not kill" differs quite radically from "Make sure thine neighbor does not kill.")

    I was speaking with a sister Catholic yesterday and we discussed this topic. It is a strange misapprehension of truth to think that anything - even the knowledge of a sacred truth - gives anyone the right to dictate, uninvited, "moral action" to any other individual. Any judgment that denigrates the inherent dignity and free will of another is of itself an act against life - what many Catholics call spiritual abortion - and yes, the Church defines this as murder. Bullying falls in this category.

    I admire enormously the Catholics I know who are able to commit themselves equally to a path of learning to pursue, within themselves, what is true and what right action is (and knowing that this path never ends in this life) and to a path of understanding and respecting the complete mystery and otherness of any other being (and knowing that this path never ends in this life.)

    For myself this means trying to fathom the commandment "Love one another." When I start living that truth every moment of the day, as I believe Christ did, I'll think about moving on to judging as Christ as did. I'm perfectly content in the knowledge that I will never arrive at "judgment" by this route. Also, I know I "fail" constantly - but it's not failure experienced as defeat - it's failure in the Catholic sense of knowing that I'm human, knowing that I'm learning, and that each time I recognize this I draw closer to the heart of the universe (what I call God), that failure as much as success contains the possibility of perfection.

    Sorry to become so earnest about this - it happens!

  9. Hi Eberle! You know I admire your liberal brand of Catholicism, tho I don't share your specific beliefs as they pertain to Jesus, etc. Jesus did famously & reportedly say "Judge not, lest you suffer judgement." On the other hand, I wonder how people in 1930s Germany should have reacted to the rise of Facism, something that I fear is being re-enacted in our midst--& in our cases, very literally within our midst--by the Tea Party folks & particularly by the hate-mongers who stir them into a frenzy. & these are literal "hate-mongers," because in the case of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, Dick Armey & Sarah Palin (et al), the hatred they're spewing is for sale--it's making money for huge corporate entities--the fact that the Tea Party movement not only has the support of corporate executives, but is also boosting the revenues of Murdoch's nefarious mega-billion corporation, with its Fox News mouthpiece, all show that $$$ is at the bottom of this. Money & folks' own ability to distrust &, yes, hate the "different."

    As far as judgement goes, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also supposedly said: "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them." I think it's time people with a more progressive & liberal mindset started shaking some dust off, while there's still time.

  10. Eberle, I had never heard of "spiritual abortion," but this concept makes sense to me. It is a form of murder. To connect with what John is saying about the corporate-sponsored hate-mongering that is going on in the US right now, I do believe that this is linked also to the wars that are making defense contractors money hand over fist. Speaking out--or remaining silent for a day--about school bullying is a start. Conversations like this one are part of the process, as well. Cheers to RFB and all who visit here!

  11. Beloved,
    thanks for responding to my comment and to me - for not being silent in the way that the "Day of Silence" itself is protesting - this dialogue of ours right here, in fact, is, in my opinion,a celebration of the spirit of the protest. Here's my response:

    When I talk about not judging individuals (i.e. not sinning against the inherent dignity of another) I don't at all mean not taking action against social injustice!! Here's how I put it together in my mind, to start with your example of the rise of fascism.

    The other night we watched that amazingly powerful film autobiography of film-maker Agnes Varda and she described her experience as a child Belgian refugee living with her mother and siblings on a boat in France. A french girl scouts group invited her to go on camping trips with groups of children, and only later did she realize that these girl scout leaders were also part of a french resistance movement taking Jewish girls to safety on these camping trips during the german occupation. Agnes expressed so eloquently her belief in what the resistance movement around her was doing - "these were just regular people," she says, "saving thousands of innocent children."

    The girl scout leaders, I'm sure, were enraged about the horror of fascism - perhaps they also addressed their resistance to fascism in more violent ways - during the time of the Resistance movements I know that women murdered soldiers, and I know that I could easily have murdered too under the circumstances. I'm sure I'm not alone in confessing flashes of murderous emotion about George Bush and his secret prisons, Sarah Palin and her incitement of her political followers to acts of terrorism like throwing stones through the windows of elected officials she doesn't agree with (doesn't this mean that a genuine "War Against Terrorism" would also class her as a terrorist?) But I don't think the right course of action for me would be to kill either of these people (and I have a feeling you'd agree with me - because Rosie would miss me, my students would miss me, you would miss me even if you didn't judge me for what I had done.)

    What I'm saying is that to me personal action means resistance - and effective resistance doesn't have to entail judging another individual. What the girl scout leaders did in saving the children didn't necessarily entail the belief that all in involved in the fascist movement were worthless individuals and evil scum. They judged the ACT of kidnapping children to take them to concentration camps as wrong, and they took personal action to prevent it.

    They also made the choice to put Agnes Varda's life in danger as another innocent child by acting as "cover" for the operation- and she, understanding this later, made the choice to honor them for this decision in her film.

    Other forms of resistance take place on a legal front - in the feminist movement, challenging the right of men to deny women the privileges of education and suffrage - or challenging the right of the Bush administration to violate American principles of freedom the way he did by not protecting the human rights of prisoners - or challenging the right of the Catholic administration to put children more at risk than they needed to be given the opportunities to protect children that were available at the time. Even if this means legal judgment of individuals for crimes against humanity, it doesn't mean the individual judgment of calling anyone involved worthless, evil scum. That kind of judgment, even within one's own mind, simply isn't necessary for effective resistance - so I try not to engage in it, and I fail, and I try again.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, for me anyway, creating resistance that is not based on judging the worthiness of individuals is more likely to LEAD to effective action - and action that won't cause me be to become like that which I am resisting.

    (to be continued)

  12. (continued!)

    It's just like Deep Space Nine, really, and the anguish of resistance fighter Kira Norice (I don't know how to spell her name.)

    The "Day of Silence" is actually a good example of resistance that is not based on denigrating individuals. It doesn't say: "if you don't respect the rights of all individuals including those of homosexuals you are evil scum." It says: "this is why I" (note the personal action) "am being silent; I invite you to consider with me the evil of silence that is in our midst."

    OK - I better stop so I can finish planting my sacred grove today. But I have an idea - I was just reading about how the poet H.D. was treated for "paranoia" (!) during the rise of fascism- she had lost her brother (if I'm remembering rightly) in WWI and her husband suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (shell shock in those days) ultimately leading to the end of their marriage. She lived in London during the war, though she could easily have left the country, and in the last year of the war wrote a poem that is currently pretty much obsessing me: "A Tribute to the Angels." I'd love to discuss this poem with you on RFB if that's something you'd like to do.

  13. Eberle, I think we were writing at the same time. How funny! I wanted to clarify that I don't personally think of abortion as murder, and it might have looked like that's what I was saying earlier. I don't want--or feel I need to--belabor this point. I was just processing the idea of spirtual murder and how that connects to verbal abuse and other forms of emotional violence. I would love for you and John to discuss "A Tribute to the Angels" on RFB. Please do!

  14. Hi Audrey & Eberle!

    Audrey: Thanks for jumping in! Yes, we'll do something on "Tribute to Angels!"

    Eberle: As per our discussion!

    Eberle & I discussed her last comment for about 90 minutes--it was a friendly if occasionally difficult discussion. I think our disagreements centered on our different understandings of "free will" & "soul" as philosophical contructs. But we both agree: action is what counts. & one thing about right action is confronting wrong action.

  15. (I must make yet another trivial correction. "Spiritual" is what I meant in my second post. Sorry to be writing nonsense today! Must be my weak attempt to side-step theology.)

  16. This is all a big deal over here too, John. But as far as I'm aware no such orchestrated a response has been even proposed in the UK, much less actually implemented. Moving and inspiring.

  17. Hi Dick: I do think this is a very appropriate & right-on response to the terrible problem. It meets with a good deal of resistance here--there are a number of christian groups (not including my wife Eberle in this!) who characterize it as "gay indoctrination." That type of reception is maddening, but thankfully, the young folks are brave & committed enough to follow thru.

  18. Dearest Audrey,
    about whether or not abortion is murder - this has to be a matter between oneself and one's conscience, I believe. Trying to make everyone have the same answer to this question is just not a relevant approach in my opinion.

    Murder itself is rather problematic on a cultural level - the Vatican has condemned current U.S. military involvement as murder - yet U.S. Catholics choose to engage in it or support it. It's the height of absurdity, to my mind, to say that men and women are allowed to choose murder by supporting the war, and not allowed to choose murder by supporting abortion. It would be laughable - except that so few people around me seem to make this connection.

    I learned in my catechism class that it is wrong to ask anyone to act against their conscience. As Catholics we are asked to be open to the teachings of the Vatican, but not to give up the primary work of understanding ourselves - conscience being a crucial part of that. We are supposed to bring our whole selves to prayer - including our emotions, our intellect, our sexuality, our sense of community, our definition of social justice - all these are intended to be activated, not annihilated by prayer.

    So I'm not afraid to enter into a dialogue with the Vatican's statements, or statements of U.S. bishops - because I'm not asked to blindly agree, in fact I disagree vehemently in many ways with how I see the truth of the sacredness of life being nuanced within U.S. culture- especially in relation to disempowered groups - but the dialogue has been extremely helpful to me in understanding my own reactions and deciding what action I want to take.

    Along with many other Catholics I believe that legislation or community pressure of any kind is not the way to address the issue of abortion. Far more relevant to me is the evil of sanctioned misogyny in our midst...when we as a nation have solved the problem of rape and child sexual abuse, then it might be relevant to address abortion on a legal level. Need I add that we don't seem very close to solving the problem that women and children in this country live in a culture of rape that damages all of us enormously? That we aren't even close to framing this as a crucial question on a community or national level?

    I'm glad you want to participate in a discussion of H.D.'s poem on RFB. It's lovely to be in dialogue with you in this way.


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