Thursday, June 15, 2017

Safe Spaces...

I was going to write this yesterday but that was before we had two mass shootings in one day and it seemed inappropriate. Then I reconsidered and felt that it was probably more appropriate.

You all know that I've joked that I need a trigger warning for the phrase safe space. And it does make me crazy. Trigger warnings and safe spaces. Not that I think they are always a bad thing, but I think they are an abused thing.

I've talked about friends giving me trigger warning for movies. It might contain vomiting (I have a sympathetic gag reflex), it might contain hand injuries (I have multiple scars on my hands from injuries and it literally makes my skin crawl and my stomach churn to see one happen), it might have any other number of things I have issue with seeing comfortably. And so I go in to (or don't depending on the warning) knowing what is going to happen and being prepared. But what I don't do is stand outside the theater and tell everyone else what they are about to see and that they shouldn't watch it because it makes me uncomfortable.

The same thing with safe spaces. But with safe spaces my general feeling is that they don't exist. Not really. We try to communicate with people that this is a safe space. Which can mean that you can say anything you want without judgment OR it can mean that certain things are never said here OR it can mean that we don't talk about issues OR it can mean we are free to talk about all of the issues. The problem is your safe space and my safe space can be totally different things. And the no judgement part? Please. I guarantee you if you have a no judgement zone safe space set up and someone broaches one of your trigger warning areas you are judging them.

And it REALLY bugs me that so many colleges have embraced these things. College should be the furthest thing from a trigger warning safe space area. It should be a challenge zone where you either can defend your ideas or you need to explain why you are still holding on to them in light of new facts. Critical thinking; not safe spaces. Logic; not trigger warnings. Learning to live your life with other people who have different ideas than you do. Learning how to hear things that you disagree with without writing off the person as ignorant. Unless they really are. But if you cannot argue the opposite point without shutting down the discussion you don't get to make that claim.

I've talked about my parents raising me to question everything not realizing that the first thing I would question was their religion and the second their politics. Or if they thought I would question those things they didn't expect me to come up with the answers I did. But I did. It didn't stop them from loving me or me them. It didn't even stop us from having a few passionate discussions about those differences. We believe different things. There are things I am positive my family is wrong about. And things my family is positive I am wrong about. But we still can sit down to a meal and have an eye rolled filled conversation that ends with everyone hugging. My mother is a lot of things, but she is not stupid and I would imagine she would say something similar about me. To write off her ideas as dumb would be disrespectful at best and ignorant on my part at worst. There are things that she believes that I think are idiotic. But I never think she is. There is a difference. The idea is repellent, not the person.

We lose that a lot of the time. Especially in politics. We are tribal about our politics now and we feel the need to make the other side less than. And I get it. I have a very hard time not getting angry when discussing the social issues I believe in. And I lost my cool more than once last year dealing with people who didn't understand that in a system like ours if one candidate is clearly the lesser of two evils you vote for less evil. You might think you are going to sleep well casting your third party vote but please believe if you aren't voting for less evil you are campaigning for more. That's why it's a fucking expression in the first place. And I tried, I really did, and I still try to understand that other point of view. But it's difficult. I know very good people who made what I believe to be a very bad choice. But again, that's what I believe. And I know they believe something else. So they aren't banned from my life as I try to create a safe space trigger free zone. Even if I roll my eyes or shake my damn head or ask if they are being willfully obtuse or rant to Brent about them while I try to construct a more coherent argument than, "are you fucking high?"

Because there are no safe spaces. There are no judgement free zones. I know they are judging me right back. My third party not voting for evil is the best choicers were indignant that I could choose someone they saw as clearly flawed instead of someone better. But no one was perfect. There never is anyone perfect. And I didn't think their champion was the answer anymore than they thought mine was. So they rolled their eyes, and shook their damn heads and asked me if I was being willfully obtuse and probably thought I was fucking high. But they are still around. Because they understand that my world might not be a trigger warning free safe space zone but it's a place where I expect you to argue AND still hug it out, bitch.

I've called Brent the closest thing to a safe space I have. I came in to our marriage really angry. And he stayed. I was mean as a snake at times. And he stayed. Though he is always clear I was never mean to him. He listens to more ranting and venting than anyone should ever have to. He listens to my arguments about a subject that I'm still forming and sometimes gets to hear me blow out the steam and come to a different conclusion once I explore all the "but maybes." But it's not really a safe space. Not really. The men in Brent's family have heart attacks. Massive ones. His father died at 58. My father had his first heart attack in his mid 50s. Brent is 48. We are in the zone. I feel it lurking at times. He had a scan done when his dad has his heart attack and he's waiting right now for a new cardiologist recommendation (his old one retired) so we can keep on top of his heart health. But we're not safe. No matter how much I insist we are both living to 100.

My father (as I mentioned) had heart disease. My mother has cancer. My grandmother had Alzheimer's, these are the monsters under my bed. My DNA isn't a safe space either.

Yesterday a group of people in San Francisco went to work and didn't come home because a co-worker killed them. Yesterday a group of people in D.C. were playing baseball with colleagues and a man opened fire. Yesterday a lot of people went to bed and woke to a massive inferno raging through their homes. Yesterday more than that happened that wasn't major enough to make the local news. We don't have safe spaces. Not really.

Health. Disaster. Crazy people. These things mean that our world is not safe. It never has been and it never will be.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that because it's not safe; that because there are real dangers out there we should be scared all of the time. We shouldn't. But if you are trying to demand that people only say what you think they should say, and only think what you think they should think you aren't making the world a safer place. You are making it a place not worth living in. The challenge of ideas is where you grow. The acceptance of people in to your life is where the good is. If you only spend time with people who see things the way you do you will only see what you've always seen.

A few years ago I was stung by a bee. Weird complications to that sting almost killed me. Because of that I had a phobia of flying insects. Bees especially. I had massive panic attacks. But I love flowers. So I wanted it to stop. I stood by the flowering bushes and watched the bees flying. I told myself over and over that it wasn't a big deal. That I had even been stung before and had been fine. That if I wanted to live a life without panic attacks at flying bugs I was going to have to fix this irrational fear. And eventually I did. I didn't do it by insisting that no bugs enter my area. I didn't do it by stopping my obsession with close up flower pictures. I did it by challenging my fear. And rediscovering that for the most part, bees don't want anything to do with me either.

That's what I want the safe spaces and trigger warnings to be. See what bugs you (so to speak) and deal with it. Learn about it. Question it. See why it bothers you. Find people who disagree with you and talk with them. You don't have to agree with them. You don't even have to like them. You absolutely don't have to change your mind. But you should be willing to open it.

There are no safe spaces.

Not really.

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