Silently Screaming For the Voiceless From Within the Prison of my Culture.
When I had just turned 26, my lover at the time said to me, “I used to hate Americans.”
I had to respond by asking why, of course, after I stopped choking on my own throat and recovering from thousands of stings.
I don’t really remember the words very well anymore, but more this sense of anguish and desperate need for answers I didn’t have. We sat in his homestay’s living room, the silence in between words deafening. He asked if I knew, if Americans knew, about the terrible things our government has done to his country and Africa.
I told him we didn’t really. Not specifically. He said he thought we voted on these things. I told him we didn’t, really. He told me how spending time in the US helped him realize that he didn’t hate Americans, he loved us actually, but he hated our government, and that the people here are not like their terrible government.
What stuck with me was this penetrating look when he asked me if we knew. I don’t even know if he was truly looking at me. I just have these eyes that float around in my consciousness, asking me why I let these things happen, why I don’t do something, piercing right through me, impaling me with horror and guilt.
The next memory I have, as if witnessing myself from above, is walking around the streets of Seattle in a strange daze. I’m asking myself over and over again what I’m supposed to do with that conversation because now I can’t say I didn’t know anymore. I couldn’t pretend that it didn’t happen. But I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t speaking about it.
I wasn’t screaming at the top of my lungs and lighting things on fire, which is what I felt like doing.
It isn’t an accident that I’m as fair as they come. It isn’t an accident that he’s about as dark as they come. I know what it’s really about. And I still feel like I don’t know what to do sometimes. I’m still trapped in the prison of my culture that says you don’t talk about these things besides quietly, with close friends, and only maybe. Only if you’re nice about it.
But sometimes something happens that releases this screaming beast, and I can’t restrain her. My dad started defending the stuff we were doing in Syria, and the escalations with Russia, propaganda that most of us have heard and many have accepted as true. A tidal wave of No came out of my belly, and I lost all concern for mores and relationships and consequences.
I refused to hear anything he said behind the crashing of my Nos on our ears. Didn’t go over so well. I didn’t care.
I don’t know how to reconcile the reality that most people don’t believe we’ve been doing these things for a long time, while my culture says I can’t talk about it. I don’t know how to reconcile the reality that my silence makes me complicit in our government’s murderous foreign policies and the feeding of corporate vultures off those policies and its casualties.
And those piercing eyes. I cannot reconcile those eyes.
The only thing I’ve found the courage to do so far is to try to end the wars and exploitation within myself. And then maybe one day, I hope, I’ll find the strength to let that beast out to scream in defense of those with no voice.
Kristy Johnsson wanders and wonders about both her inner and outer worlds. She’s walked from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as the length of her nervous system, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. She’s also a therapist, helping others learn to wander bravely through the wilderness of their emotions, and a lover of the natural world, her most beloved teacher.