Are You Jack or Jill?

April 3, 2013

Too many guns with too many bullets.
A nearly permanent underclass of black and brown people struggling just to eat and educate their children on wages that make everyone uncomfortable on some level.
Woman marginalized across the globe.
Rape culture being redefined.
The homeless.
The hopeless.
The War on...
Drugs
Terror
Women
Deficits
Taxes
The destruction of the planet and lack of drinkable water (unless you buy it in a bottle).
Too many black men incarcerated.
Too many immigrants undocumented.
Austerity is killing us.

The list of horrors is endless.

Jack is overwhelmed.  There are so many problems that scream in his face for solutions that he is like a child surrounded by terrifying images and people yelling that their problem is the one he must help solve NOW.  He can't walk downtown without having some college student shove a clipboard in his face, asking him for money for a cause.

He changed his profile picture on Facebook to show that he is ally of Marriage Equality but is still frustrated that Obama's powers concerning National Security would make the corpse of Nixon sit up and glare in jealousy.  He is tired of the endless debates about jobs and immorality and kids killing each other and he just needs a little time to think about his bills and his teeth (Jack hasn't been to the dentist in five years) and how he's going to pay that car payment.

So Jack, not out of laziness or a lack of empathy, shuts it all down.  He, like a shopper confronted with 75 different ice creams, chooses Vanilla because it's easier and turns his back on all of the causes, all of the problems.

"I avoid talking about politics," he tells people.  "Too much confrontation and anger.  Activists are just too strident.  Those on Left are angry; those on the Right are insane.  I just want to go to work, keep my head down and make it home to watch the new season of Game of Thrones."

OR

Jill is overwhelmed.  There are so many problems that scream in her face for solutions that she is like a child surrounded by terrifying images and people yelling that their problem is the one she must help solve NOW.  She can't walk downtown without having some college student shove a clipboard in her face, asking her for money for a cause.

So she stops moving for a moment.  She breathes.  She closes her eyes.  She turns around in her mind, filtering all of the ills of society out one by one until she lands on one that she can't filter.  She opens her eyes and sees that one unfilterable, unsolvable problem.

She can't devote her every moment to this one cause.  She has a job and bills to pay and cable TV to watch and a social life to maintain.  She doesn't have the money to simply throw cash at the problem and she's not carrying a clipboard to bug/beg strangers for the money, either.  But she decides to carve out a tiny section of her week - like going to the gym - that she will focus her time on finding ways to solve the problem she has chosen.

Solving the problem becomes a part of her daily grind just like getting her morning Starbucks or sneaking a smoke during lunch.  And she meets - online, at first - others focusing their time on her chosen problem.  And, while the problem may persist, she finds herself helping those people right in front of her.  People on her street, in her neighborhood, in her city.

Chances are, you're Jack.
Chances are, you'd like to be Jill.

Come to the Global Activism Expo this Saturday and meet a convention center filled with Jills.  It's gonna be overwhelming.  None of them are going to address your student loan or your high rent bill.  But come.

Stand in the Main Hall of the UIC Forum (corner Roosevelt and Halsted) and look, talk, see.  Then close your eyes.  Breathe.  And filter them all out until you land on one you cannot filter.

This is how we do unto others.  This is how we turn the "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..." from a curse to a blessing.

This is how we change the world.

6th Annual Global Activism Expo
Saturday, April 6, from noon-6pm
UIC Forum, 725 West Roosevelt Road