Stepping into the Ring

I live in Madison, WI and right now there are a couple of anti-immigration bills being proposed. There is a rally scheduled for Thursday at our State Capitol.

Of course I’m going. No question about it.

And of course I want to voice my opinion about it. That is just who I am. So I posted this on my Facebook page:

What strikes me this morning is how easy it is for me to rearrange my schedule and plan to go the Capitol on Thursday with my Latino husband, to excuse my kids from school, and to march as a family WITHOUT FEAR because Carlos and our boys have dual citizenship. 

The risks involved and the constant fear that people living in the shadows experience everyday is hard to wrap my head around. It breaks my heart. And it pisses me off. 

Coming out on Thursday is a big deal. Stepping up in front of the Capitol is a big deal for some people. 

If it didn’t cross your mind as to whether showing up on Thursday could put you or your family at risk, of splitting your family up, then I ask you to come, please. Come for the families that are in the shadows. They love like everyone else, work hard, and deserve a voice. 

2/18, 10am, Capitol #‎WisconsinIsNotArizona

That post ended up hijacking my morning for two reasons.

  1. Someone disagreed with me. OMG! And I chose to step into the ring with him.
  2. During this online interaction, I also chose to step back and get honest with myself.

See, I don’t know a lot of people outside of my love bubble. I purposely used the ‘public’ option in the privacy settings and surprise, surprise, the guy that disagreed with me wasn’t one of my Facebook friends.

He commented: “Illegal is illegal. I am not sure how easy it is to get citizenship here but I can tell you my family did it. I’m not racist nor do I believe that Latinos should do jobs others hate. What I do believe in is doing things the right way. Isn’t that what you’re protesting against?”

I so badly wanted to jump all over this BUT…I had this beautiful insight that this was an opportunity that I usually don’t get. Here is someone brave enough to challenge my passionate position in a public forum, on my post, that would most certainly be full of supporters and ‘likes’. I wanted to ‘do’ this right. I wanted to show up with love and not start a fight that would just create more of a barrier between two people. So I replied with this:

“Thank you for your question. As simple as that may sound, my question to you is how do you propose we handle the fact that 40 million people in the US are unable to get proper documentation to live here? Should they remain undocumented and live in fear or do you think they should be deported? I’m curious. 

Because both of those options seem unsustainable in creating a healthy economy. 

Do we take steps towards making it easier to live in the US or do we take steps towards deportation and fear based tactics?”

And to that, he replied:

“So I would answer by saying is it fear or simply integrity to not allow an undocumented person to step up and over a process that others follow without fear? I’m a fan of making sure those who follow the rules get fair treatment for doing so. Do you feel like drunk drivers should all be magically acquitted? What’s the difference?”

I had a bunch of comebacks pop into my head and I watched my anger bubble up but I was late for an appointment so I held back.

In the meantime, a couple of other friends jumped in with their support of my stance. I was not alone. But would that mean that this guy would feel attacked and either bow out or get nasty? He was alone now and I really wanted to practice engaging with someone on the other side of the fence. Not because I thought I could persuade him, but because I realized that the interaction forced me to go deeper inside myself to find the answers to some of his questions. And that felt like learning in a profound way.

He was giving me the opportunity to engage with myself, my beliefs and to question why I believe what I believe so I could put it back into a well articulated argument.

I was pretty proud of myself for showing a bit of maturity and restraint. But then I did something that…well, who cares, if it was a good thing to do or not…I checked his Facebook page and saw a post he had shared an hour earlier that was chock full of sexism, racism and was wildly successful in offending me on a number of levels. Who was this big jerk and why would I continue to interact with him?

My emotions got me and I didn’t feel I could respond in a cool and collected manner. I was raging. I read through some of the exchange he had continued and then I decided to walk away so I replied with this:

“It looks like you’ve gotten some other perspective here. It seems shortsighted to take an anti-immigration stance and not be decisive and clear about which way you want to go. We need solutions, not hate, fear and blame. None of that gets us into the solution and simply keeps us in the problem. I could add more but after scrolling through some of your posts on your Facebook page I’m not sure it will matter. I do appreciate you engaging in the conversation. Many blessings to you.”

And then I bowed out. He tried engaging again but I didn’t go back.

Someone else did for me though…

“…and while we are talking about ‘fairness’ since that seems to be one of your issues is that it is unfair for people here illegally to benefit from that fact. Do you think it is unfair that America is a country founded on Native American blood and built on the backs of African American slaves…none of that was fair, but it happened, and as I country I would say we are pretty quick to want to forgive ourselves and forget the past. So why not take the same approach now? 

Let’s not forget that large parts of America actually belonged to Mexico and often bought from European Colonial powers. That doesn’t really seem fair either huh?

You go girl! And thank you for stepping in for me on that last round.

My analogy of it being a fight, with rounds and a boxing ring isn’t really how I want it to be; it isn’t about winning and losing…it is about coming together to create change. But there are times when it feels like that. And this was one of those times.

Why am I sharing this? Because it is what happens when we take a stand. Someone will stand against you. And how we handle it, how we manage our own emotions and how we reply is what is important. There is no right or wrong to it. It is simply imperative to notice and learn from these experiences.

There was a crucial point in that exchange when I checked in with my husband and I told him what I really wanted to say (which was heated, dramatic and totally over the top) and we laughed and he reminded me to take a deep breath. He held the mirror up for me and helped me be the person I want to be in this world, as a change agent.

That interaction could have gone a lot of different ways and it could have been better or worse, however you define better or worse. That’s not the point. The point is that it happened.

Keep engaging, friends. Your passion burns and the world needs it right now. Get angry, get pissed off and go inside and get honest with yourself about how you can best serve in this world. You know the answer. You choose.

 

3 thoughts on “Stepping into the Ring”

  1. Dad says:

    Proud of you.

  2. Kay says:

    Bravo, Sara. I’ve engaged in similar discussions about things I am passionate about. It can be tricky! And I can ALWAYS come up with an inappropriate way to make the fight personal or escalate things. And I choose (most of the time) to educate, not escalate. When you stand up to express your beliefs, without apology and without any intention of making anyone else wrong, you learn a lot. <3

  3. Heather says:

    Your post reminds me of this quote from a change agent with great integrity.

    “The ultimate measure of a man (or woman-excuse him for that part) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Keep up the fight- it matters so much to so many!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *