“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” - Anais Nin
We are living in a hall of mirrors. Things have become distorted and are shown to us — by the media, by those in positions of power, by our sense of outrage — in incorrect proportions.
In America, the tension among world leaders at Bush’s funeral is seen as important by mainstream media, while children dying in concentration camps less so. Future Santa’s gender is apparently crucial, while the erasure of LGBT civil rights from the White House's website and critical funding for medicaid and social security, services many in the LGBT community rely on, were cut from 45’s 2019 budget.
We’re outraged that white comedians say n----r (don’t) but question the lynching of a Black Lives Matter activist's son. We’re good with Brock Turner getting six months for raping and assaulting an unconscious woman, and also good with Cyntoia Brown, a woman sold into sex trafficking as a child, being sentenced to 51 years for daring to value herself enough to fight for her freedom. We question a Black president and his country of origin, but not a "president" with a long list of allegations including sexual assault, tax fraud, and collusion with Russia during the election campaign. White feminists are outraged by rape culture (#MeToo — a movement from which they co-opted and erased Black and brown femmes) but willfully ignorant on white nationalism.
Where do we go from here? How do we move forward when everything feels like too much? We have an administration which doesn’t take climate change seriously, not only burying a report showing that our planet is damned even if we take critical action, but has also taken measures to drastically roll back advancements on the environmental front. Police brutality, transphobia, fatphobia, homophobia, workplace inequality, reversal of civil rights protections — everywhere we look, something isn’t working and many of us can’t see how.
The historian Gerda Lerner said, “The system of patriarchy is a historic construct; it has a beginning; it will have an end. Its time seems to have nearly run its course — it no longer serves the needs of men or women and in its inextricable linkage to militarism, hierarchy, and racism it threatens the very existence of life on earth. What will come after, what kind of structure will be the foundation for alternate forms of social organization we cannot yet know. We are living in an age of unprecedented transformation. We are in the process of becoming.”
If our mirrors told the truth, what would we see? Michelle Obama wants us to ask ourselves, what are we becoming? It is a micro question with a macro answer. We are becoming a people who are learning to see things as they truly are. We are beginning to show others our mirrors and ask them what they see. With that added perspective, things are coming into sharper relief. The path out of our carnival trap becomes incrementally clearer. Eventually we will find our way out. Some choose to put up more mirrors to keep us trapped and confused. Others, like those in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Egypt, Serbia, Canada, to name a few, are choosing to smash those mirrors and call it a day.