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Complacency

Mackenzie George, Editor in Chief

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I thought I knew what my biggest fear was. I had it all lined out in a concrete answer, the way some people might describe their terror of the dark. My spiel went something like this: “I fear complacency. My biggest fear is that one day, people will become desensitized to all these awful things happening around us. They’re going to normalize all of this, and they’re going to stop trying to fix it.”

Today, I realized that I have become one of those people.

It happened slowly, over the course of the summer, but more than once I have caught myself lying to myself and others. About my beliefs. About what I think and what I know.

A few times, it had to do with feminism. Both times it was a guy who asked, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” Neither of them meant it negatively, but I was haunted by some whisper of a connotation.

The first time, I even said no. Then I caught myself and amended: “If wanting equal rights and not being sure that we’re getting them makes me a feminist, then I guess I am.”

But that’s a different story. More recently, I’ve found myself split politically. After the election, I tried to stay as centrist as I could. My field has been getting a lot of flak recently for being lopsided. And sometimes we deserve that. There are biased outlets. There always will be. I thought if I could just remain neutral, if I could try to see both sides, I could crack open that stereotype.

My mistake was that I thought opinions equaled bias. That’s not true. I prevented myself from feeling things, from hurting, in order to — not appease, exactly — but prove someone wrong. These past few days have taught me that it is OK to feel.

I felt pain when I saw a black police officer keeping watch, head bowed, over a group of people brandishing Confederate flags and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia. They were protected by circles of yellow tape and people like the police officer. The police officer did his job. He protected those who scorned and looked down upon him.

I felt sadness when I saw Heather Heyer’s name thrown back and forth in Twitter wars that sparked outrage but not change.

I was disappointed when I flicked on the news and saw media outlets discussing our President’s (albeit disappointing and, later, horrifying) reaction to Charlottesville rather than considering what Americans can do to work on these glaring issues.

Twitter is a black hole. You can find plenty of drama on it, you can even learn from it, but mostly it causes 100 problems for every problem solved. Today, though, I read a tweet that resonated with me. It eradicated the confusion that plagued me all summer.

“…It is not ‘left-wing’–‘leftist’–to believe in equality of races, genders, citizens, ethnicities. It is American,” wrote Joyce Carol Oates, author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, on the app on Aug. 13.  

I spent so much time worried about the complacency of others that I forgot to consider my own beliefs. I, too, was swept up in this wave of implausibility. I thought I was radical for believing in fair treatment for everyone. I grew desensitized to the miserable treatment of a profession I am passionate about.

To fully grasp this, it took both Oates’ comment and a fellow student journalist sending me a link to President Trump’s latest tweet. (As there are many such tweets denouncing the “#FakeNews Media”, I am referring to the one that refers to them as “truly bad people!”.)

I cannot be comfortable with someone who finds it easier to stereotype an entire profession than a hate group. I can no longer attempt to be “centrist” for someone who takes a harsher stance on a Broadway show cast than white supremacists. It took him days to denounce those responsible for Charlottesville, and this is a person who utilizes those 140 characters multiple times a day.

I am at a loss on how to respect someone who was thanked by a former KKK Imperial Wizard for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM [Black Lives Matter]/Antifa.”

Perhaps I will lose the label of neutrality. But JFK did say that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Along with that neutrality goes complacency. And that’s one concept I have no trouble saying goodbye to.

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C.M. Russell High School's Stampede online
Complacency