Don’t Tell Me To Calm Down
One thing that bothers me in social media is it seems like dozens or hundreds of people are telling me what to do, how to react, and what to think. I know people are just offering their best perspectives, but far too often this is couched as advice, not opinion. So I’m going to respond to the world in turn.
Don’t tell me to calm down abut Donald Trump’s election. First off, this advice elevates thought above feeling. Thoughts are no more sensible than emotion if you examine them closely. Maybe its an Enlightenment model, or a male model, or an Anglo Saxon model (much as I love the Vikings). Our thoughts aren’t any more real than our feelings.
Next, what’s so great about being calm? I’ve been around Buddhism and Buddhist practioners my entire adult life and sorry to say, I have found Buddhists completely average in their ability to respond to a crisis. Give me EMTs any day. That is, in an emergency, I’d rather be with people who are outer directed and trained to act, no matter their emotional state.
My dad Eli was a complicated sometimes difficult person, but a great role model in terms of standing up to oppression. During the war in Viet Nam, his anti war activities led him to being arrested, a phone tap, and a place on Nixon’s enemies’ list. No one could accuse my father of being calm. He was reactive and scrappy and angry. However, he knew how to act—bravely, spontaneously, and consistently.
My being calm benefits the status quo—not me. If the media tells me to calm down, essentially it is telling me to shop. I’d rather be told—stay upset. Also, let’s not forget, I’m from New Jersey. I was raised in a sub culture where things got worked out through disagreement —sometimes yelling and screaming. I’m not saying this is all good, but it is honest.
Calm is not an ultimate state. It is a coming and going thing, like everything else.
And here is the truth—I’ve never been calm. The simple fact of my existence as a Jewish woman has seen to that. The world has never seemed like a benign place—and that’s because it isn’t. In my twenties I was the victim of a very violent crime. I don’t usually talk about this but it feels necessary today. I hear folks criticizing others for saying they’ll leave the country or take up the means to defend themselves. This might not be my path, but when someone feels unsafe I would never tell them to stay put. And, bluntly, I would encourage women to learn to defend themselves. A self defense course literally saved my life in the course of that crime. I know individual solutions don’t address the larger issue of rape culture—but if society is changing slowly or in this case backsliding—taking care of ourselves and our daughters is never amiss.
So don’t tell me to calm down. Tell me to act. Tell me that even if I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, that’s fine, and the way will emerge. I’ve been hearing “what can anyone do,” and at first I thought that was a pathway to despair. Then I realized I was impervious. Something inside me is galvanized and I’m going with it. You can call it the human spirit.