A number of years ago I was faced with having to get an emergency container of formula for my grandson because we forgot to bring it with us. The only place around was Walmart. So the decision had to be made: Do I allow my grandson to go hungry because of my political aversion to this evil corporation? Or do I (gulp) push my politics aside (which dictated that I never set foot, let alone spend money at, a Walmart) and spend the money on the formula my grandson needs to satisfy his hunger?
The answer was obvious, of course.
For a long time I told myself I would never take prescription drugs over herbal remedies, especially since my health insurance mandated that I order long term prescriptions from a corporate drug warehouse. After a few years of elevated blood pressure, elevated optical pressure and herbal remedies not working, I found myself no longer being willing to take the increased risk of heart attack or blindness by maintaining high blood and optical pressure. I now take prescription meds and have been able to stay in control of my bp and have slowed down the degeneration in my optic nerves.
Currently I find myself in a situation where I have to gulp again with regards to my political stance on a variety of issues. Flying, which significantly impacts my carbon footprint, and airport security are among those issues. My situation: my aging parents who live 2000 miles away from me, in a nursing home facility. My employment situation does not allow me the time to drive back and forth. So I must use my resources to fly back and forth at least twice per year, sometimes 3 or 4. I know people who say they will never fly as long as this fascist state of affairs is in place in our airports. How I would love to be able,with conviction, say this also. But it’s a gamble that I have to take – as to whether or not I will be waved through the regular scanner or have to participate in the heightened police state procedures now in place. I made the decision over a decade ago that I had to gulp and try not to feel guilty.
I am not willing to sacrifice providing for/being with/seeing the loves of my life for my stance on issues. I would never be able to forgive myself if my priority was politics over family to the point where my use of absolutes prevented me from ever seeing them or providing for them. I am not willing to sacrifice my health, safety or well-being or that of my family because of my position on related issues.
It is unfortunate that our systems currently in place have our hands tied in certain situations. But this does not equate to “giving in”. It equates to knowing that some circumstances must lend themselves to a willingness to adhere to current practices, policies and procedures (ineffective and unfair and unjust as they may be) which in my view should strengthen one’s resolve to work towards putting measures in place for the change we want to see for our world.
What I will continue to do is to be as vocal and outspoken as possible about the inequities of our political system, our healthcare system, the violation and invasion of our individual and personal rights, the degradation of our civil liberties. What I will continue to do is to live my life according to my values as much as possible, realizing that nothing is perfect or absolute and that is is ok to deviate every once in awhile to do what is necessary in my life – and to not feel guilty about it.
The most important thing for me is that the loves of my life see me practice what I preach regularly and are proud of me for it. I know I am setting an example and making a difference when this message is conveyed to me. My son once wrote to me during a very difficult time in our lives:
I am thankful that you are helping us. You are truly a great woman and not just because you help us when we need it, but because everything about you and what you do is great.
You are caring, loving and you generally care about the welfare of others. For this I look up to you; you are a big role model in my life. If I can take even 25% of what you do and who you are to my life, I know I”ll be okay.
I love you very much, Mom.
I keep reminding myself of this whenever I find myself having to engage in even the smallest activity that is out of sync with my beliefs.
The larger issue, then, is the question of using absolutes in our activism. Is it realistic to say “I will never” or “I will always”? I don’t think so. Having the mindset and fortitude to be as strong as possible in our stance on issues is much more plausible, realizing that there will be times where exceptions have to be made. The key to practicing what we preach is consistency in that practice (Consistency does not equal “always” or “never” unless sacrifices are willing to be made.) Being vocal about unfair practices, boycotting businesses and organizations which employ those unfair practices as much as possible, engaging in the political process to effect change (which may include civil resistance/disobedience), living one’s life in accordance to one’s values on a daily basis with as close to 100% consistency as is humanly possible…..these are things that set the example for others and are part of the larger ripple effect that will travel through generations as it builds momentum toward mass change for the good of our planet.
I will – almost always – remember this.