Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Iceberg

I know some of you may hate the idea of ice right now, but this is important. And much related to the previous post, inspired by another part of what Trista was writing about recently, about how the subtle heterosexism of some of our family members and other well-meaning people is related to the violent homophobia that erupts into sensational news stories about murder. Trista has a neat drawing showing these widely varying kinds of heterosexism at the ends of separate tendrils of a Kudzu plant- very different but still part of the same plant (an invasive species that has damaged flora in the Southern U.S. and proven extremely difficult to control/reduce). So, this brought to mind one of the main elements of anti-violence work that I was learning about in a class at UMass this fall about violence prevention and intervention.
We are often bewildered by the extreme examples of violence that make oppression glaringly obvious now and then- the man Trista wrote about who murdered his 3-year old because he was afraid he might turn out gay, the crucifixion of Matthew Shepard, the dragging of James Byrd, KKK rallies that seem to spring up out of nowhere in otherwise nice towns- but these things don't just spring out of nowhere. They have a history and a build-up, predicated on the oppressions in our society, contributed to by what we as individuals do (or more often don't intervene in) that make some people "less than" others- less human, less real- an idea that makes violence against them more acceptable (and more likely). In our class this was put into the image of an iceberg- we only see the tip, the top 10% of the iceberg (the extreme, sensational examples of physical and sexual violence) while we don't see the 90% of the iceberg that is submerged (the violence supportive parts of oppression that go unnoticed and unchallenged most of the time- verbal, visual, emotional, and psychological). I can't seem to figure out how to upload the drawing, but the point is that the little things are supporting the big things, and so we all have to own up to the ways in which we have contributed to this iceberg. The hopeful thing about it is that since the support for violence in our society is in the smaller, daily injustices, we all have the opportunity to effect a difference for the better- by doing our best to confront our own prejudices and by speaking up as empowered bystanders when we see them elsewhere, from the dinner table to Congress to the workplace to the streets.

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