The Big Picture these days is like a Gordian Knot. From the domination of the patriarchy and its greed for power and resources, to the negation of any kind of true social and legal justice, the Big Picture is going to take public persistence, strategic action, and (ultimately) creative cooperation to either unravel or discard the current system. We, in this family support working toward re-building our society into a Big Picture that values all life, that prioritizes ethics, equity, compassion, and diversity, and that supports the development of the best of human potential to solve problems in ways that meet the needs of all sentient beings.
As a privileged White woman, I have had the luxury of long-ago embracing intersectional feminism in both Big and Little picture, and I have nurtured the generations of my offspring to embrace it as well. As an elder White woman of limited privilege, however, I nevertheless continue to struggle with how to manifest my beliefs outside of my financial and physical Little Picture.
Because there’s always the Little Picture — the complex world of the individual’s mind and spirit, of our personal struggles with Nature and Nurture that affect our ability to navigate the bumpy roads of the Big Picture. Not everyone responds to that challenge in the same way. We all have different learning curves as we explore, examine, and adjust our Little Picture – first to survive in the bigger scheme of things, and, finally, to find our role in making the Big Picture better for everyone.
Decades ago, my (now) adult son was mugged and beaten by three men of color who robbed him of the meager amount that was available via his ATM. Because he was nurtured to understand the influence of the Little Picture in which these men most likely lived, he was able to move beyond anger and “hate”. As an adult, autistic and afraid of violence, he still lives his life committed to social justice and intersectionality. His road in the Big Picture is bumpy, indeed. But he persists in the best way he is able: by intelligent research, analysis, and writing.
The danger I see in only focusing on the Big Picture and ignoring (rather than honoring) the complicated journey of the individual to find his/her place in it, is to risk becoming alienated from the essential human response of compassion and empathy that leads to understanding and mutual support.
We are living in a society that seems to have lost all shades of gray – a world divided and further fragmented by intense emotional positions dedicated to tearing the Gordian Knot apart. While the ultimate goal of fundamental social change is shared by all who believe that is necessary, the journeys to accomplish that goal begins in the Little Picture, the journey of each individual as they develop their own sense of self, their own sources of personal strength and power.
Teenagers today, still exploring how to find a balance between the influences of Nature and Nurture in their “Little Picture”, find themselves unavoidably drawn into the multifarious landscape of the current, intensely emotional environment of the Big Picture. And, just as influential in the positions they take is the impact of family values on their belief system.
We are a family that first tries to find common ground – even with antagonists – as a starting point, and often that starting point begins in learning about, understanding, and accepting the truth of each person’s Little Picture (personal journeys and experiences). But too often antagonists don’t want to find common ground, and so there is no place to start or proceed.
When my grandson was 7 or 8 (he is now 17), he became enamored of firemen and their uniforms. Every week, he visited our local fire station, getting to know the firemen personally. Finally, they gave him a discarded uniform, including sections of the hose. He was so excited, he even wore the stuff grocery shopping.
I suppose his love of “costumes” was reinforced by the fact that we are a family with some history in theatrical performance, and his progression into costumes of “authority” was fueled by his feeling secure and protected when he wore them – fire fighter, EMT, detective, police, Dr. Who, Jedi.
So, despite all of his commitment to fairness, ethics, justice, and BLM, and despite his acknowledgment that our system of policing needs to be overhauled, he cannot ignore his empathy toward the Little Picture of some law enforcers – the cop who got shot and leaves a wife and baby behind; the cop who doesn’t come forward and report unnecessary police violence because he is afraid his partner won’t give him the backup he might need in violent situations; the cop who needs his job to support his extended family.
In addition, my grandson is involved with an online game along with a young POC policeman from the Midwest who has become his friend. That cop has an unmarked police car that is his to drive and even take home. But he does not want to park that car in his driveway because he is afraid to make it public that he is a cop; he is afraid of his family being victimized by opposition forces.
My 17 year old grandson’s empathy knows no bounds. And that is unusual for a teenager; and the backlash he gets from others when he tries to explain his feelings about the police, in his words “hurts his soul.” But he perseveres in trying to explain why he feels the way he does.
We talk about these things over the dinner table. I tend to come down on the radical side of issues. He is a reminder to me not to forget that each individual has a Little Picture that is often ignored by critics – a picture that might have room for some deserved “walk a mile in his shoes” empathy.
Personally, I believe that the military style in which today’s police are trained is like a cult. Most seem to have been brainwashed to believe they must be invincible and to embrace violence in order to survive. In some ways, they are victims whose own fears and bigotries have been co-opted to support the rules of the cult. There are reasons why many of today’s police do what they do; there are reasons why some folks are driven to use a gun to rob convenience stores for basic necessities. But then, again, one has to be able to see some gray within all of the overwhelming black and white, to understand each individual’s Little Picture.
While Rudyard Kipling was a man, and the tendency to dismiss men as “patriarchal” and therefore a problem, I am one of those who is able to look at art apart from the personal reputation of the artist. So I share with you a little edited version of Kipling’s “If”. Edited pieces are in bold.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it all on you
If you can trust yourself when all folks doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And not worry if you seem too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And move beyond the stress of loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all folks count with you, and some too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ of your soul beguiled,
Your love of life will have no limit,
And you’ll find your destined place, my child.
I invite any readers to open a discussion of what I wrote here (harkening to the style of the original “blogosphere.”) Or at least leave a comment.