Recently a friend and I were discussing the current state of our country. I told him that in response to everything that was going on I had started writing. I admitted that some it was very sarcastic if not even blasphemous. “Do you consider yourself a sarcastic person?” He asked. “Mostly just in my head.” I replied. “I have a good filter…but the filter is full!” Indeed it is. My filter has filled up to the point where all of the sarcastic comments and judgments I had held in were now spilling out. I was making snarky comments on facebook posts, to people I didn’t even know! My comments weren’t helpful, kind, or even necessary, but I had gotten to the point where everything I had been holding in- all my fears, frustrations, and judgments- had just started pouring out of me.
When we are babies we don’t have filters. Babies say exactly what they want, when they want to say it. Of course we can’t always understand what they are saying but in general they make their needs and expectations known. As we get older we start to learn about cultural norms, appropriate behavior, and expectations. We learn what will be met with approval and what won’t. As a result we construct our own filters. We condition ourselves to say and do what we believe will yield the results we want. Sometimes though our filters become warped. We learn to stay silent on things that should be said and give voice to the things that shouldn’t.
A couple of years ago I attended a workshop where I was instructed to write down my dreams. I only had one dream that week. In that dream I was trying to talk about something friend of mine had done to me. In my dream my friend put her hands over my mouth and wouldn’t let me talk. She had effectively silenced me. I realized that week that I had allowed my fear of confrontation to steal my voice. I have a decent filter. It keeps me from making hurtful comments. It keeps me from saying things that could damage relationships. It’s a decent filter but it doesn’t always allow me to tell someone that they are hurting me or when I think they’re hurting themselves.
Would it be better to just ditch the filter? Would we be better off without one? After all we just elected a man as president who seems to say whatever comes into his mind. Talk about a success story for verbal diarrhea. If the president can speak his mind, why can’t I? Before we let go of all conventions though let’s think about what the purpose of filter actually is.
A good filter purifies. It separates out the good from the bad. The chaff from the wheat. It keeps the coffee grounds out of the coffee pot. It leaves purified water, free from chemicals and bacteria, safe to drink. On a personal level this means that if we have a constructed a good filter it will help to ensure that our words and actions are pure and holy. But even a good filter can fill up fast. Just because you didn’t call your friend a jerk doesn’t mean you didn’t think it. Filters do need to be cleaned out. Using the same coffee filter two days in a row is gross. A clogged up furnace filter is dangerous.
Our nation’s filter is full. It’s so full that we elected Donald Trump as president. He is not what is clogging our filter but he represents everything that has been seeping out and that the filter can no longer contain. He’s given voice to the racism, misogyny, economic disparity, and the fear of others that plagues our country. The good and wonderful things that our country has to offer; freedom, opportunities, diversity, innovation have become tainted. Is it time for new filter? A better one? No. A new filter would only mask the problem. We need to go to the source.
We have been trying to run our country on remnants and parts that are hundreds of years old. Some of them are broken or down-right toxic. It doesn’t matter how good the filter is. Toxic fumes are getting through. It’s time for a complete overhaul. It’s time take a really good look at which parts we are still holding onto and whether or not they should actually play a role in the future of our country.
Why are we still building pipelines when there are safer, more sustainable energy sources? Why don’t we believe that everyone has a right to medical care? Why does our country have the highest incarceration rate in the world? How is it possible that a police officer can get away with shooting a man in the back? Why are we willing to punish women for having abortions but not men who sexually assault women? Why are we scared of muslims when we are more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists? Why don’t we value this planet enough to take care of it?
These are tough questions, and they are only the beginning, but it’s time we started demanding answers. The time to be silent is over.