Catherine Ryan Hyde recently posted this on her website and I wanted to pass it along to you, dear readers.
In my new young adult novel Jumpstart the World, Frank, my transgender character, tells Elle, “The world doesn’t always play by its own rules.” He says we all agree that there should be equality for everyone. But of course there isn’t. And we just let it slide. He says, “That’s why there’s such a thing as activism. Sometimes you have to jumpstart the world just to get it to be what even the world admits it should be.”
If you’re not sure how to Jumpstart the World, here are five suggestions:
1). Be emotionally courageous.
Do you believe in equality for all? That’s good. But are you really saying so? Do you promote equality? Do you speak loudly?
Blog about equality and acceptance for ALL! Or tweet it. Or put it up on your Facebook page. Or talk about it with your friends. Say that you don’t discriminate.
Now take it a step further. Say nobody should. We need to stop pretending that those who discriminate have a right to their opinion. Discrimination is not an opinion. It’s an action that causes harm. We need to be brave enough to tell others to stop. We can’t change them, and we’re not responsible for making them stop, but we can tell them straight out that discrimination is not okay.
2). Stop worrying about what others think of you. Or what they say.
This is the main reason, I feel, that people remain silent instead of shouting their truth out loud. Somebody might criticize.
So what if they do? Why are we so afraid to be criticized? In what way will it damage us? Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but we know love is right and hate is wrong. So we know we said the right thing. We just might get some blowback from those still stuck in their hatred. But here’s a question: do you really want approval from bigots?
Two quotes. One from the Buddha. One from Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
The Buddha was once viciously verbally attacked by a young man who came to hear him speak. “Son,” he said, “if someone declined to accept a present, to whom would it belong?” The young man said it would continue to belong to the person who offered it. “Yes,” Buddha said, “and I decline to accept your abuse.”
Shout love, and if anyone tries to give you hate in reply, mark it “return to sender” and let it go. It was never yours.
3). Vote. And vote wisely. And progressively!
Employment discrimination against gays is still completely legal in 29 states. Against transgender individuals it’s legal in 38 states. Three states still ban gay adoption and many others find ways to limit it. Gays still can’t serve openly in the military. Gay and lesbian couples still can’t marry in the overwhelming majority of states.
Outraged yet? I certainly hope so!
Tell your elected officials how you feel about equality. Call them, write to them. Remind them that you vote, and that you’re paying attention.
Learn about the candidates before you cast your vote. Check with the Courage Campaign, Human Rights Campaign, MoveOn.org. They publish a lot of information about the candidates and their voting records on equality.
Candidates with lots of money lie and spin in their TV ads to confuse and manipulate voters. Be a voter who won’t be confused or manipulated. Learn the issues and vote your conscience. Our votes can be the power we need to effect change, but only if we use them wisely.
4). Value kindness. And advocate its practice.
Remember the golden rule? Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you? If we all really practiced this rule, I swear the only problems left in the world would be weather-related. Human interactions would all smooth out just fine.
So why don’t you? Because everybody else isn’t doing it? Here’s an idea: you start.
Go out of your way to send messages of kindness to others. Set a precedent for good.
An old spiritual teacher of mine once commented on the Beatles song “All You Need is Love.” He said it was a nice sentiment, but they had it backwards. He said, “All love needs is you.”
Love is in need of practitioners. Volunteer today.
5). I thought of four. Now it’s your turn.
But here’s a suggestion, if you don’t have an idea yet: Spread the link to this little article. That’s a small positive act right there. Small acts add up.
Catherine Ryan Hyde