It is on days like today that I’m never sure what to say. Between the bombardment of hurricanes, the mass shootings, tragedy after tragedy, it seems hard to know where to begin. Conveying sympathy seems like a default, to the point that is seems to have become meaningless. It’s been a long time since I was one of those effected by true disaster, so perhaps I am just callous to what those words mean when they aren’t directed at me. All the same, I feel like ‘our condolences’, ‘our thoughts’, etc, have become so much rote noise. They have become societal obligations. They are requirements.
I feel like I have no more room to push for any action. I am vocally anti-gun, pro-choice, pro-I don’t know what. I’m definitely a Liberal and a fairly far-left one at that. I want universal health care, public elections, universal income, etc. More than that, though, I feel like I’m pro-science. Science isn’t an ideology or a dogma (though some assert it to be, and a few even act like it is). Science is an investigative method. It’s a process to be applied to learning and understanding. I believe in science. And when a scientific investigation yields tangible results, then it seems pretty much like that should be implemented as policy. Yet that isn’t what happens.
I do feel like defending the rights of those to speak out on these matters. Many say that after a disaster is not the time for name-calling, blame-distribution, etc. I’m not so sure. So long as resources and aid is being distributed and provided, I think in the immediate wake of tragedy is precisely the time to figure out what went wrong and what can be done to change things, to make sure this never happens again.
I also feel like everyone has the right to weigh in. Not of equal measure, of course. I trust a climatologist far more than a movie star on matters concerning climate change. And any time someone from outside the field challenges someone within a field, it is so laughable as to be insulting. And yet, we find ourselves in a country that is increasingly prizing ignorance over knowledge and incompetence over training, but that’s another discussion for another time.
But everyone has the right to speak their mind. Calls for this athlete or that actor to be quiet, that we don’t pay them to do…whatever, that is blind viciousness. When they speak out, they speak out as celebrities. Celebrities aren’t paid. Supported, perhaps, but not paid. Celebrities are public figures and they are made public figures because of their voices, which they use however they see fit. Their job – when not acting or playing a game – is to be public figures who use their personality and presence. They can use it to further their brand, their money-garnering persona – or they can use it to further a cause.
If you are more comfortable with them trying to garner money than pursuing a cause they consider worthwhile, you are heartless. And if you are comfortable with them pushing a cause you believe in, but tell them to be silent when they push a cause you disdain, then you are a hypocrite.
There is another side to all of this. That is the celebrities, the public figures, who are silent. There are those, who in the wake of tragedy, continue on. They idly pursue their day-to-day without any seeming acknowledgement of the tragedy or tragedies that swirl around them. Their indifference is infuriating and callous. And the mark that it leaves is one of distrust and selfishness. This ‘I’ve got mine, I hope you get yours’ is the mark of childish greed and it is vulgar and disgusting.
The silence of these celebrities speaks volumes. Whether it says what they want probably varies from one to the next. But their silence is there and it is heard. And while I wish no ill will to anyone (we have enough of that in the world), and while I would not suggest to insist that anyone is required to say or do something (I began this post talking about how words of condolences seem hollow), I will say that this silence is and will be remembered. Because while the world seems to burn, when we see you tuning up your fiddle, we know where your concerns truly lie. And it isn’t with those in need.
My thoughts are with the people of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Nevada. I hope things improve, and improve quickly. I hope life doesn’t just return to normal; it returns to better.