Meet Your Neighbor: I Attended My First Vigil

FULL DISCLOSURE: For a person who advocates for getting more involved in the community, and who tries to provide resources to empower people….I have done a poor job as a citizen and an ally. The only vigil I had kept was regular Twitter engagement.

Honestly, most of my advocacy has been behind the keyboard. I haven’t marched. I have reached out to my representatives. I haven’t had the chance to put myself between potential victims and victimizers. I have volunteered to help out various initiatives (including an anthology to benefit Southern Poverty Law Center), but I haven’t been there. Not because of my caretaking/freelance duties….but basically because I haven’t felt moved enough to take real, solid action.

And then, this past Saturday, I attended my first vigil.

Once I learned about Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy through the Chicago Nerd Social Club Facebook group (More disclosure: I’m more than just a member of CNSC - I’m a former board member), and I realized this was an opportunity. I had the evening free, I wanted to feel safe, and more importantly...I wanted to do something. I wanted to make some kind of stand...if only to serve as a springboard for further action. I had stayed too long on the sidelines, and although this was a peaceful protest...it was a first step I desperately needed. 

Since people were encouraged to bring light sabers and other signifiers of their geekdom, I went to my storage locker to find my collapsible light saber….or my Sonic Screwdriver...or my Indiana Jones fedora. All of them were buried, so I had to settle for my Doc Savage t-shirt. Might not sound like much, but not only did it show my willingness to fight white supremacy old school pulp-style, but Doc Savage played a huge role in my ethical and moral development. Moving from the storage locker, I took the not-quite-as-long-as-I-remember CTA ride downtown.

Thankfully, I was able to follow the rules (this was a peaceful gathering, with no weapons or masks allowed, and I was completely OK with that), and...well, I only knew three people who showed up, two of them through Chicago TARDIS. (I am not complaining...in fact, it was comforting. I’ve felt very isolated for the past few weeks, and quite honestly, I needed to reconnect with people if only casually). We went through some exercises, and I took some photos with my new phone (so please excuse the shaky quality...I'm a writer, not a photographer) Thankfully, there were extra light sabers available for those without such accessories. (But hey, when you have Mjolnir, sonic screwdrivers, and Harry Potter wands....there were plenty of opportunities for full-on geekery). Even though much of the vigil was interrupted by a heavy rain, there was a great lesson that I learned from that night....

Remember last week, when I declared that "Fear Makes Companions of Us All"?

So does hope....and hope is much stronger than fear.

It is very easy to forget that many of the people acting against our interests are, in fact, hurt and flawed human beings acting out of racial intolerance. After all, our President just ended an Obama-era immigration program for minors, and many articles have been written focusing on the ethics of "punching a Nazi." And I have no problems punching Nazis....or white supremacists....metaphorically, through my keyboard. But now, I can take a stronger stand...and feel more confident that if I had to put myself in harm's way to defend the defenseless, I could do so more easily. Not out of moral superiority, but because I know there are others just like me.

Giving into despair and depression is easy, and many of us feel like we're under siege - that larger forces are playing divide-and-conquer with our lives. But our common humanity binds us despite our differences. We are currently living in a time when intolerance, hatred, and racism threaten to tear apart our community, and that current leadership is openly tolerating and encouraging that division. We all have a role to play in the Resistance, to use modern language...but there's one difference between our side and theirs.

Their side has hatred; we have compassion.

Their side has intolerance; we have acceptance.

They choose self-deception; we choose truth.

Their courage comes from devaluing others; ours comes from seeing the value of others.

Finally, they act out of fear; we act out of hope.

And hope always wins.

(Please feel free to leave comments below, as well as join the conversation on our Facebook page, and you are welcome to contact me privately via e-mail. All comments are moderated. Thanks for reading!) 

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