I struggled and thought long and hard about what to write this week.
While this is by no means a political blog, and I don’t desire to be preachy, or to continue to overwhelm and inundate you the same way that social media does, I just couldn’t carry on as if nothing happened this week. I have been very troubled by the events in Charlottesville. I just don’t understand hate. It doesn’t translate to me. When events like this happen, I can become lost in depressive bouts. I wonder, “What’s the point of it all?” Everything seems hopeless. I also wanted to make sure I at least somewhat kept with the vein of this blog, which is aimed at artists or “Makers” of any kind.
So, I made myself a list for times like this. Even if you are having a hard time that has nothing to do with politics, racism or hate groups, I hope this is helpful. I have used these same things before to climb out of ruts in my artwork and in my personal life. Unfortunately, I don’t have direct sources to link you to, this is just a bunch of ideology pulled from my noggin. I have an addiction to Ted Talks so there is a jumble of information, insight, and advice that rattles around in my brain space and eventually all meshes together. If you have a good source for any of this, please share!
What to do when you don’t know what to do.
1. Take a breather.
I’m serious about this being number one. I have read several posts similar to this that seem to condemn people for not taking immediate and violent action. They encourage you to be angry and harness your anger. I cannot in good conscious support that. I believe being angry and using that anger to lash out, even if the thing you are lashing out against deserves a good thrashing, is one of the most harmful things you can do. Your anger will hurt you more than anyone else. Also, when you come from a place of anger, you only preach to the choir about your beliefs. You speak in a way and choose harsh and demeaning words so that the people who really need to be reached by your message are only triggered by it. You become fuel to their flame. You become the reason they do what they do sometimes, in your vindictive state you become their justification.
Think I’m wrong? Go objectively check out comments on any social media platform and see how much people argue and only push each other further into their pre-existing beliefs.
So, take a breather. Put the phone down. Turn off the TV. Silence the radio. Go for a walk in nature. Meditate. Do yoga. Write your thoughts down in a journal. When you feel calm about the subject, you can now begin to address it. You will be clearer on what steps can be taken and when you speak, you should be able to do so from a place of love and compassion. Empathy is how we reach people, not anger or condemnation. How can you be empathetic with a racist? Go check out Christian Picciolini. He is a reformed White Nationalist and speaks about this very thing.
This can also be helpful advice, if like me, sometimes the enemy is yourself. Artists seem to have a tendency to attack themselves with hurtful thoughts. Same advice, get away for a spell.
2. Broaden your horizons.
This is a before action step as well. Take your new found peace and evaluate your beliefs. Where do they come from? Why do you hold them? How much do you really know? Objectivity is really key here. Try to come from a place of no judgement, just honest analysis.
Go and research whatever it is that is upsetting you. Look up the textbook definition of racism. Go learn how the White Nationalist movement started and what their doctrines are. I am not asking you to believe or support them, but you need to understand them. This is where empathy starts. This is where sometimes you can begin to see a person and how they got swayed to open their heart to hate. This is how we begin to show them a better way, by understanding why they started to do this in the first place, by figuring out what they are trying to achieve.
Nothing is solved by ignorance. Nothing.
This is my favorite trick for when I am stuck with my art, I go do other art! I look up a new technique, a new tool and how to use it. I go do something completely different, like oil painting (which I now love), dance, poetry, cosplay. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Any art form you can think of will teach you something and give you a chance to express yourself.
3. Go to the polls.
I heard once, somewhere, that one of the most powerful things you can do as an individual is vote. I am not talking about voting in an election (although this is seriously important, especially for local elections!), I am talking about voting with your dollar. Every time you purchase something, or give money to something, you vote for it.
In the case of politics, donate money to organizations who support and further causes that you believe in. Even purchasing books or other materials that relate to things you believe in will help maintain and possibly grow a market for them.
This goes for art as well. I love art. Not only making it, buy owning and displaying it. I frequent art festivals and fairs. Even when I am a vendor at a fair I always take a shopping break to go visit other small artists and purchase a few items. Supporting artists is very important to me and I understand their struggles, so when I am able I try to help ease that burden. I may be tight on money, or not had the best sales, but I can still find five dollars to spend on a small trinket or cute postcard from an artist.
Get creative, I am sure you could brainstorm waaay more than I have listed here. The rule is simple, support the things you love with your moolah.
4. Take Affirmative Action.
This is usually when things get hairy, at least for me. Although, if you have actually done steps 1-3, that’s still more than most people.
Affirmative action is where we walk the walk and get down to the nitty gritty. In regards to Charlottesville or anything political, this is where you gotta get off your ass so to speak. Go to a city council meeting. Talk to your representatives, whether in person or via e-mail. I’m all for politics in sweats, so pick up the phone and lobby in the comfort of your own home. Let these people know what is important to you. If the racism of Charlottesville upsets you, as it does me, let them know we need to double down on outreach programs for at risk youth (who can get sucked into these things), maybe you have an idea for a peaceful billboard message, or a community art project to begin to challenge people’s opinions and open people’s minds on race or gender. Whatever it is. Let them know what is important to you and brainstorm a few ideas for them. You never know, your idea might actually get funded.
Even if it doesn’t, you are speaking out in one of the most important ways. Also, research when local elections are and who the candidates are. Look at what they stand for, but also what their track record is. If your representatives are listening or doing enough, VOTE IN BETTER REPRESENTATIVES.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.
If you are one of those people who still thinks that your vote doesn’t matter, than why not? What do you have to lose? You are better educated about the people in our systems of government, the process of how complaints are handled, and probably made some connections with some people along the way. If you think your vote is wasted, I ask you again, why not waste a vote? So what? You voted and it did nothing (according to you). Are you harmed for it? If there is no repercussion from voting then I would say, vote even if you think it won’t change anything.
This goes for art to. Does your area offer affordable art classes? Are there public or affordable art programs? Are there free business classes for small businesses? If the answer is no, start asking for them. These will usually come from the chamber of commerce, but not always. If there aren’t a wide variety, request more. Request free programs for youth or people below the poverty line. If you are an artist, maybe volunteer to teach a few of these free classes if the supplies and space are provided.
Let’s all practice what we preach and try to actually enact the things we claim are our values. Too often we say we value something, but when our lives are looked at that things is no where to be found in our actions. This is a disservice to us and our communities.
5. Keep your chin up!
Please, please, please in all aspects of life… keep your chin up. Don’t let hate and horrible people bring you down. There is a way, things do matter. Even when it seems hopeless, you matter.
You Matter. People Matter.
Be loving and kind, you will spread love and kindness. There is always hope.
If it gets really hard, start over at step 1.
I hoped this helped, or at least sparked a thought for some of you. You are not alone. None of us are. Let’s be strong. For our country, for each other.
All my love,