Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prop 8 Shoulds (Part Two)

Last week I began writing a piece on staying “should-less” and choosing happiness even in the midst of being denied the legal right to marry, as California did with Proposition 8. But how is this possible when you live in a state or an area that doesn’t support your fundamental human rights?

I promise you it is possible if you keep the following in mind:

1. You always have the right to choose to be happy in ANY situation. No matter what anyone else is saying to you or about you, you can choose not to buy into their insanity or their cruelty. No one has the power to take your humanity unless you give it to them. Don’t believe me? Try reading Victor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” or Tina Turner’s, “I, Tina.” These individuals make strong testaments in favor of determining your own emotional/spiritual path, even in the face of personal and political oppression.

2. Choosing to act the victim role plays into the oppressor’s hands. If you choose to live your life at the effect of other people’s choices, you will be letting them win. Anytime you compromise your mental, physical, or spiritual wellness because of another person’s ignorance, you are giving them what they want. By asserting your right to be happy and proud in all areas of your life, you are diminishing their ability to hurt you and the people you love.

3. You cannot control what other people think or do. You can control how your react to what others think or do. In my own experience, expending energy on what others think and do will leave me tired, exhausted, angry, and burnt out. This hardly puts me in a position to be an effective activist, or inspire others to change. However, I can have an impact and an affect on what others think or do if I have chosen peace and happiness within myself first. It is only through doing your own work that you can motivate others to change.

4. Nobody opens their minds or hearts when they are being judged or condescended to. Nobody. So if you’re out there yelling at people that they “should” support you, it really won’t help. People may change their minds when they feel they are being listened to and respected. Throwing bottles or vandalizing churches hardly encourages anyone to change their political views.

5. “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” Nelson Mandela. Are you behaving in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others? Are you respecting that partner you want to marry? I can’t tell you how many activists I have known who stand up for human rights in the world, then ignore or abuse their loved ones at home, or are cruel to their co-workers. By demonstrating compassion and love for people you know, you are in fact making a powerful political statement about the rights of others.

Please consider these ideas as you go forward in your work this week. It’s easy to choose suffering. It’s harder to make the most radical choice of all: Happiness.

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