Last week President Biden visited Warsaw, Poland and gave a speech about the war in Ukraine, which has now officially waged-on for an entire blood-soaked year. Many verbal highlights made headlines, but one part that didn’t get as much coverage struck me particularly. Biden explained that Putin could end the war quite easily. If Russia stops invading Ukraine, then the war will end. Simple as that. On the other hand, if Ukraine stops fighting against the invading Russian troops, then Ukraine will end.
That moment stood out to me in a very personal way. It’s the exact same dynamic playing out all over US politics in various forms. If conservatives in the US stop fighting against reproductive rights, that war would be over. If I stop fighting for reproductive rights, then my rights would be over. If conservatives stop fighting against trans rights, that war would be over. If I stop fighting to protect trans rights, then my trans family and friends lose their rights. The aggressors in these scenarios are refusing to acknowledge their position as aggressors and are instead hiding behind a veil of victimhood.
Putin blames the West for his invasion of Ukraine, even though he clearly started this fight. We were all there, Mr. Putin, we all saw what happened. US conservatives insist they are standing up for the unborn, even though they refuse to stand up for those same people once they exit the womb. And they claim to champion liberty and the freedom of personal choice, even though they vehemently oppose some people consulting with their own doctors to make individual medical decisions for their own body and mind.
In all these cases the real cause for the crusading is simply a desire to control other people. There is no reason to invade another country with very clearly defined and internationally recognized borders other than to control that territory and the people in it. There is no reason to stand in the way of medical professionals caring for their patients other than to try and control those medical professionals and those patients. The misplaced sense of entitlement behind that drive to control is astounding.
By trying so hard to get their way, these people are not making things better for anyone. In fact, they are making things much, much worse. Abortions are still occurring all over the country, but they are less safe and more costly in states where laws restrict access. Trans people continue to exist, no matter how much legislation claims they aren't real. Those laws just make it more difficult for them to access medical care and support. Without that care, some of those folks will decide it's better to end their life than to live a life of suffering and persecution.
In Iran, girls schools have been attacked with poison gas this week. The authorities are investigating, and it turns out "some people" want all girls schools to close. Apparently those people feel entitled to control these girls, so now dozens of students have been hospitalized. The family of those students must now endure the terror and uncertainty of their children being poisoned, as well as bear the cost of treatment and manage the process of recovery.
The only result of these kind of actions is a net increase in suffering. In the end, whoever is trying to control whether girls go to school still doesn't actually control those girls. They never did and they never will because human beings are not things, no matter how much one person objectifies another. People have thoughts and feelings and opinions and dreams and experiences all their own. And no one can stop anyone else from being who they are. All anyone can do with restrictions is delay expressions of self for a while. But we are human beings and those of us who survive oppression make it out alive because we find a way to be ourselves no matter what anybody else tries to say about it.
These examples are real and they are serious. And we need to talk about them. We also need to talk about the examples that are more ludicrous and less life-or-death because they point to just how deeply this problematic sentiment has rooted itself within society. This week a person who participated in a dognapping scheme sued the victim for failing to pay the reward originally offered for the safe return of the dogs. The audacity of this person to demand a pile of money from the dog owner after their conviction for participating in the dognapping blows my mind.
I dated a person for a while who wanted a life-building relationship with me. I didn’t want that kind of relationship with them, so I declined their offer to add those life-entwining aspects to our differently committed connection. That kind of misalignment in relationship intention is not sustainable for the long-term, but not every relationship has to last forever. Unfortunately, because they wanted more from me, they felt entitled to more from me. So when I said no and we broke up, they got mad and accused me of withholding what I should have been giving. They are still mad about it to this day.
My former lover and the litigious dognapper are clearly not connecting all the dots. And I think it's because they are following the well-publicized example of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and countless other conservative and bigoted individuals. Any reasonable person can see what's happening, but the aforementioned folks simply refuse to acknowledge reality. They feel entitled to control other people and they refuse to take responsibility for their wake of suffering and chaos following behind them as they move through the world.
You and I probably can't personally do anything about the way Mr. Putin conducts himself, but we can at least refuse to emulate that toxic and destructive example. This is one reason I spend so much time and effort engaging in self-reflection. It’s critical to consider my thoughts, feelings, and actions in a process of sincere inquiry. It’s important to listen to others who are kind enough to give me feedback. And it’s vital to check-in and ask for feedback when it’s not already arriving.
Please do not avoid looking at yourself. Please do not avoid registering your impact on the world in all the small ways because that adds up to big blank spots in your vision. Refusing to acknowledge the existence of some of the dots makes it much harder to connect them. And just like we learned in school: if you don't connect all the dots, you don’t get to see the whole picture. We must look honestly at the totality of our present circumstance before we can do anything to improve it.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.