Ted Levine’s portrayal of the serial killer Jame Gumb, AKA Buffalo Bill, in The Silence of the Lambs, remains the most chilling portrait of a socio/psychopath in film history. And while the character from Jonathan Demme’s 1991 classic psychological-thriller has more famous lines — Put the fucking lotion in the basket! — his most chilling comes during his mockery of the pain of the young woman he has trapped in his basement. When she takes his dog hostage in an effort to escape, he shouts at the woman at the bottom of the filthy well “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT PAIN IS!”
He can’t understand or feel the pain of another, let alone validate it. And this is exactly where we are as a nation. We have all become so wrapped up in our personal axes to grind, whether they be based on gender, race, religion, class, etc, that we cannot see past our own pain, however valid. I’m not discounting the value of spreading awareness while making the case for change in our culture. Exactly the opposite. Call me crazy, #livingwithmentalillness, but I don’t view compassion, awareness, and political equality as a zero sum game.
If The United States holds out one great Promise, it’s that the constant work of making truer that original promise that we are all equal, and entitled to equal rights will bear fruit. I have no idea where the notion that there is a limit to the number and type of human beings with equal rights under the law came from. But I want to blow it up.
The #MeToo movement is as valid as #BlackLivesMatter as #BlueLives as #SupportOurTroops as #TakeaKnee as #LoveisLove as #CatholicChurchMolestation as #SecondAmendment as #GunControl as #NotOneMore. It’s only when these causes separate into little mutually exclusive cliques that we end up shouting down the well at our fellow human beings.
Is there room in this nation to support Colin Kaepernick and #BlackLivesMatter, be a Quaker who does not stand for nor salute any man-made symbol, live with a former Marine, #SupportOurTroops, and just want to celebrate The Eagles Superbowl win (finally!)?
May I support my #SecondAmendment rights, while still believing in common sense #GunReform? Can I suppot #Legalization as well as #RuleofLaw? Can I be #MeToo without incurring the wrath of males? Can males molested by the #CatholicChurch be #MeToo as well? It would make sense.
#Sexism #SexualAssault #EqualPay #ReproductiveRights and other #Feminist issues affect women of color far more than my (admittedly fine) white ass. And desiring to raise awareness about #PTSD #Depression #Anxiety and #LivingwithMentalIllness doesn’t mean I don’t also care about #PrisonReform. These issues can, and should, coexist.
Now, I absolutely do not want to associate myself with the mealy-mouthed #bothsides are to blame, nor enable the Fascist “I don’t do politics” appeasement movement of #Quislings and #Collaborators. I really don’t know how else to demonstrate my liberal cred than by practicing empathy and compassion.
I believe that this nation is big enough for all comers, and that Freedom and Equality have no limit. In fact, the more freedom, the more democracy, the more democracy, the more equality, and the more equality, the more freedom! On a purely pragmatic level, it keeps the creep of fascism at bay. And it’s also truly American and Patriotic. If America is about Freedom, let’s have it! There is enough to go around in a nation this large and diverse.
All I ask is for the practice of the compassion and empathy it takes to recognize and feel another’s pain and want to help. That’s how we humans survive, right? Working together.
I heard something that the Dalai Lama said once. I cannot remember the exact quote, but the gist of it was: When your fear touches the pain of another, you feel hatred and disgust. But when your love touches the pain of another, you find compassion.
If we don’t all embrace that as a rule to live by in the world’s oldest modern democracy, we’re all just Buffalo Bill shouting down the well in our basement at our fellow human beings. Mocking their pain. Bust down the door to your heart. And, like Clarisse Starling, save that suffering person. You never know when your turn in the well will come.
And if you really want your voice heard: VOTE! I don’t care what Russian propaganda you’ve read to the contrary, it’s the only way to gripe that really matters. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Uber is offering free rides to polling places. And it is illegal for your employer to punish you for leaving work to vote.
PS – I know I teased a vlog earlier this week. It’s coming. But, as always seems to be the case anymore, current events outpaced my ability to edit. Especially with my arm still injured.
While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.
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