Right to Speak

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I really dislike the term “thick skinned.” As in…

“Ya gotta be thick-skinned, Danika, to be able to take the slings and arrows of life.”

I have an idea. Why don’t people just stop slinging and arrowing?

This is truly the age of the bully, as social media has given bullies megaphones and permission to use them. To put yourself out there risks a world of complete strangers turning against you. It can be a nasty, nasty place online.

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(image by Michael V. Manalo)

There’s a 2015 TED talk by Monica Lewinsky called The Price of Shame. My immediate reaction when I first came across it was why would I want to hear THAT woman’s story? I watched it anyway, and I encourage you to do the same, because my reaction was the whole point. Monica was basically the first public figure to be brutally bullied on the internet. She was “Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Her talk was honest and moving. I realized I had formed opinions about a woman I really knew nothing about, and that the words I associated with her had been echoes of bully voices.

The public’s response to her talk (17 YEARS after the events) was horrifying. And, sadly, unsurprising. (The good news is that TED aggressively monitored the personal attacks and removed them to make way for the growing support for Monica)

But still… I don’t want to be thick-skinned. It indicates a barrier between myself and others. It indicates a stiffness, a lack of intimacy, a shell. It indicates I’m expecting to be slung and arrowed by others, who then in turn don’t trust me back. When I come across someone with that kind of hard exterior, it’s palpable. I really don’t want to shell myself off, especially since I’ve been told by others that it’s my open heart and encouraging spirit that inspires them.

Instead of a “thick skin” I’d much rather repel all that dung with a beam of light that penetrates other people’s shells. Not so easy, mind you, but I practice.

And I see that other people are practicing using their beams of light, too. I see a turning of the tide because people are done with bullies. It seems the bullies of the world are being smoked out like bees (apologies, bees, for the comparison). When one bully rears its head, it’s getting overwhelmed by a wave of new consciousness and strength. A tipping point of We’re not going to take this any more. Hence all the hash-tagged movements like #nomore and #neveragain gaining momentum.

Yes, the bullies of the world are being smoked out because the same megaphone they yield as a weapon is a tool for the rest of us to find each other. And organize…

Imagine at school one day a gunman starts shooting up your friends. Imagine that terror and heartbreak. Imagine demanding something be done when this has happened over and over again in your country for years. Imagine being afraid to go to school not because you didn’t study for the French test, but because you’re afraid you’re going to be shot and killed? Imagine demanding that your school not be a place to be afraid of.

Imagine, then, a candidate for the House of Representatives calling you a “skinhead lesbian” for speaking out? What kind of world had we created in which this politician thought that would be acceptable? Luckily, one that decided it wasn’t.

I don’t think Emma Gonzalez is necessarily “thick skinned.” From videos and photos of her, she seems wonderfully vulnerable. But she’s speaking anyway, because she knows she must. Fortunately, when the bullies appeared she was defended by a larger wave (and that bully candidate withdrew). This is happening right now. People are standing up and we’re standing up with them. We won’t all be Emma Gonzales, but at least we can be part of the wave.

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I’ve been thinking lately about how we as individuals can’t do everything, but we’ve definitely got to do something. We are about to see what we’re really made of as the old paradigms fight to stay alive. It’s overwhelming all the things that need to be done in terms of environmental and social justice, so my new motto is: pick something. Pick your cause. Pick one thing be it local, regional, national, international… pick something to stand up for. Because the more we stand up, and stand up together, the stronger we as individuals and as communities will be. Take a stand even if it’s just to tell someone you won’t listen to their vitriol, that it’s wrong to attack people personally, that we must be kinder to each other.

And don’t worry that people will be upset because you’re not focusing on their cause or feel guilty for not being focused or knowing about their cause.

We can’t do everything, but we’ve got to do something.

I’m going on a book tour next month, and I’ve been invited to give a talk about writers and responsibility. My heart and throat chakras clinch when I think about it. “Who are you to talk about this?” I ask myself. “What do YOU know.”

That, my friends, is the voice of the bully. And my voice will be a repelling light.

YOUR WORKOUT

In your story, what is your character afraid to speak up about? How to they not stand up for themselves in the world? Who do they allow to bully them? Do they witness someone bullying others? It is often easier to stand up for others than ourselves.

Write these timed exercises without stopping, crossing out, or editing.
Just go on your gut and keep writing.

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 5-7 minutes.

Start with the line:

The place in my character’s body that tightens up when they are afraid to speak is…

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line:

The moment when my character’s inaction has built up a pressure they can no longer contain happens when…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line:

The world around my character embraces their stance by…

 

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2 Comments

  1. This is lovely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I shared them on my FB page. Best of luck on your book tour!

    • Danika
      Mar 28, 2018

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing.

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