Anne Applebaum’s essay, “The Collaborators,” was a good read for me. The subtitle frames the topic: “What causes people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? And How do they find their way back?” It’s well worth your time to read, and can I even go so far as suggest, contemplate.
I’ve thought about complicity quite a bit over the past several years. My career employment in a religious system that categorized humans other than males as unworthy of leading or even participating was the precipitating environment leading to my confrontation with complicity. For many years my tribe of Baptists didn’t allow women to teach or hold any leadership positions over men. I cleared this hurdle by finding a new tribe in which to work. This new group at least taught that women could serve where ever they were called. While the teachings and practice never really lived up to these aspirations, it was refreshing.
However, my new tribe didn’t accept LGBTQ people as entirely acceptable to participate fully in the life of the community of faith. I grew to understand that this was opposed to everything I knew and valued in my experience with human beings, relationships, and my years of teaching the Christian scriptures. I avoided these inner conflicts, teaching and preaching around them to keep the peace and remain employed. Complicit.
In recent days, it seems that our society is beginning to reckon with race and racism that feels different to me. We all come to these moments at different times and with various precipitating events. I know that this particular moment for people of color is simultaneously welcome, hilarious, and rage-inducing. The punch line being, “WHERE THE ACTUAL F&$K HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING?!?” Where we have been living is very comfortably in our complicity. We can face it or not. But when faced with our collaboration in this unequal and unjust system, one must decide what their actual values are.
Our ACTUAL values are the ones by which we make our everyday decisions. They are the ones that happen automatically, by habit. When the automatic comes in conflict with our espoused or aspirational values, we can count that as uncomfortable or as an opportunity for growth and change. Mere discomfort produces rationalizations and then status-quo. However, our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to dive into the growth and change. It’s hard. But it’s not impossible. We will mess up. And we won’t know what to do. We will stammer and use the wrong words and stumble. But like learning a new language or negotiating a dark room, we’ll adjust. We’ll get more proficient. We’ll find a light switch. These values will become more automatic.
This new place in which I find myself living is simply beautiful. I feel more connected with other human beings every day. That experience expands my world continually, and that is always rewarding. Always. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a LONG way from arriving. For years, I preached that the minute we think we’ve arrived somewhere is the minute we stop learning and growing. It’s at those moments that the seeds of complicity sprout. My goodness, this world I’m beginning to see, is so much more rich and fulfilling. I’m so thankful to be in this new, scary, uncomfortable place.