I was ten-years-old when the news covered demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that became violent as the Chinese government stepped in. I remember my parents watching the nightly news and the stunning coverage of a single man standing in front of a tank that threatened to crush him. No one has ever figured out what happened to him since that fateful night.
In the years that followed, human rights in China was a particular interest of mine. With my strong pro-life upbringing, I was outraged by the understanding that families were only allowed to have one child, many parents giving away their baby girls to overcrowded orphanages or having an ultrasound to discover the sex of their baby and then decide on abortion to guarantee a boy who would take care of them in old age. I learned about the oppressive government, poor working conditions, and religious restrictions.
I wasn’t obsessed, but I definitely cared, enough so that I dreamed of someday adopting a little girl out of one of those orphanages so that I could give an unwanted child a home in the United States. This was years before I understood the complicated nature of transracial, transcultural adoptions, but it was a desire that I held onto for years.
When I look back at the younger me, the woman I have become makes so much more sense. The more I learn about the world around me, the more I care and want to change it. The problem for me now is I am beginning to understand just how complicated those systems actually are and see the amount of work necessary to enact needed change.
And I’m finding that knowledge and the care and concern that comes with that knowledge is emotionally and mentally exhausting.
I know that part of it is my personality. I want to change the world. I want people to get along. I have never understood the ability of others to hate those they do not know or understand. I am a rule follower who would lead a revolution if I believed that was the only way to make the world a better place for my loved ones.
I’m sad. I’m exhausted. I care too much and it’s been sucking the life out of me. And then I consider the people who don’t have the privilege to stop caring. I know that I do. I’m a middle-class white woman. If I stop caring about the outcome of COVID-19 or the next election or the newest legislation, my family most likely will not be impacted, at least not seriously.
But I still care about the state of our country. I still care about how others are hurting. I still care about injustice. And all of this caring is just so damn hard.
It’s hard to watch loved ones fall for conspiracy theories that prey on their intellect, convinced that these truth-tellers are finally revealing what they’ve believed all along. It’s hard to watch the people who are physically nearest to me arguing that facemasks don’t do anything to protect us so why should they bother. It’s hard to hear those who are responsible for my faith and moral education make hypocritical and harmful claims against everything from race relations to global politics. It’s hard to learn over and over again that some of the things you were taught and believed as a child were lies and half-truths perpetuated all the way to the top, all while being aware that those who were teaching you those things were probably unaware of the truth themselves.
But then I ask myself what kind of world I want for my children. What kind of future do I want them to have? Who do I want them to be in that world?
The desires I have for my world make sense to me. They fit into the belief system I was taught since I was a child. They are fed by years of reading and studying and listening to the experiences of others. But for some reason, those desires put me at odds with the very people who instilled those foundations when I was a child watching Chinese protests on television.
Wanting my church to lead the way for necessary social justice reform doesn’t make me a Marxist; it makes me a Jesus follower who takes the call to love my neighbor seriously.
Wanting a cleaner environment and infrastructure changes that preserve our planet doesn’t make me a pagan earth worshipper; it makes me a science-believing caretaker of God’s creation.
Wanting a reformed financial system that seeks economic equity of opportunity and a higher standard of living for all citizens doesn’t make me a socialist; it makes me a hobby economist who is aware of the harmful social impact of a widening equity gap.
Wanting our criminal justice system reformed so that we have fewer people in prison, more second chances, and protections so that those who make mistakes do not lose their voice in the public sphere doesn’t make me an anarchist; it makes me a compassionate human being who understands that people can change and that mass incarceration has contributed to lawlessness, not prevented it.
Wanting the education system changed so that our children are taught the entirety of our complex and often troubling racial history doesn’t make me un-American; it makes me a true patriot who wants my country to know better and do better in the future.
Wanting an end to our endless military involvement around the globe doesn’t make me an anti-troop pacifist; it makes me a concerned citizen who wants to see our troops risking their lives for meaningful causes that aren’t intended to line the pockets of those who are unwilling to risk their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.
Wanting all of those things doesn’t make me an out-of-control liberal who wants to destroy America; it makes me a politically homeless moderate with complex political and social views that cannot and should not be defined by devotion to a single political party. I don’t want to blow up the system, I just want the system to be reformed so that my views are represented somewhere in my government.
I am tired. I’m tired of feeling lied to and betrayed by my loved ones. I’m tired of dreading what news will pop up on my Twitter feed throughout the day. I’m tired of bad news cycles that never seem to end, not because good news doesn’t exist but because the bad news just keeps coming. And if I’m being truly honest with myself, I’m tired of genuine fear of where my country is headed and of how my neighbors will respond to their own fears in the same climate.
I am tired, but quitting isn’t an option, because the only way things will get better is if we fight for the change that will make that happen. So as difficult as it is, I will keep looking at the big picture and fight for the change that will make us better. I just don’t have it in me to stop trying.