"Somebody has to speak for them as has no voices," said the marvelous character Granny Aching in Wee Free Men.
And this advice — it's more of a demand, though, isn't it? — was penned by a man who, handed a death sentence from an aggressive form of alzheimer's (talk about every writer's nightmare ::shudder::), grabbed that pen and dashed off a few very potent works defending those who need their right to die defended — so he wasn't just scribbling BS that sounded good, either. Sir Pratchett, gods rest, believed in that quote, which is probably why he attributed it to Granny Aching, a character perhaps only eclipsed in power and respect by Mistress Weatherwax (who agreed with the statement completely, when she heard it).
Have you ever had your voice taken away? I did — there was part of my life where I was silenced and tortured and shamed for it, and because I was a child and my aggressors were aligned with powerful forces, no-one could or would stand up and speak for me.
I was bullied, severely, in an environment that provided protection and encouragement to my abusers and strong incentives to my family to not remove me from that environment. As I work through finding, admitting and dealing with all the places in my inner landscape that were scarred, weakened or destroyed by all that damage all those years ago, I find that there's also a whole other layer of damage, too — the hollow, isolated hurt left from looking around at a whole worldful of adults and knowing that none of them stepped up and spoke for you.
I get it, I guess — it's a lot to ask an adult, with their own life and responsibilities, to step up and call bullshit on the church, to anger my own family and face who knows what other consequences, just to point out — before anti-bullying was a popular movement, too — that that kid right there is being abused and it's not ok. But I want to point it out because I know, for an absolute fact, that simply someone having tried to do that, however successful or not, would have done a lot to salve and salvage me. I would have at least known that it wasn't the whole world that had abandoned me. And believe me, I've paid many thousands of dollars in many years of therapy to even begin to appreciate what a huge difference that is. It is HUGE.
Look, dammit, the vulnerable are holy: They are in a place of external weakness, yes, but also a place of great internal change, and the potential for incredible things to happen and be discovered. What happens to them happens deeply, and matters a lot in the long run. So in any situation, if someone is vulnerable and others are less so, you step up for and protect the vulnerable, and you do it for the sake of ALL of us, to defend not just the person but also the powerful lessons being learned, and help make sure they're good ones.
So the point of this post is this:
When you see someone being bullied, be it a kid or a foreigner or a homeless person or whatever their weakness, whatever has left them vulnerable and you still strong, you fucking say something, you hear me? (I'm not as eloquent as barely-educated Granny Aching, but that's my wording and I'll stand by it, at least for now.)
You say something even if it won't change the situation. This isn't about your right to have your actions be effective, pretty, or good for your reputation. This is about actions that somebody must do, regardless, because it's a duty, a cost of being human. Quit whining and pay it, if fate holds its hand out.
You say something even if you don't know them from Elijah, and "have no business". We ALL have business in this; see above. You open your mouth like a cranky old lady and you CALL BULLSHIT, and you make sure the vulnerable person knows you did it, so that even if nothing else happens, they know that sometimes, at least, somebody will stand up.
It has been one of the great privileges of my life to assure my daughter, frequently, repeatedly, that if she is ever bullied, by anyone in any circumstance, I (and her other family, too) will burn the world down to defend her. I got to let her know when she was still single-digits old that I didn't give two fucks what the school said — that she and I would lock hands and move on to as many new schools as needed so that she wasn't abused, no question — and that even if I couldn't fix a situation, no one, not God nor Satan nor Santa Claus, could make me stay silent about it. It was and is a complete honor, to be allowed to put up a sign, kind of like Dr. Who does with regards to Earth, that says This Is Defended, and to let my kid see from the get-go that she has defenders. There's a very good reason humans tend to want so badly to give their children something they didn't have: It heals you, it really does — not all the way, but a lot.
But with power comes responsibility, to quote another passed-on sage amongst writers. In this case, my power is having healed that deep tear inside me to some degree, and to have been allowed to pass on better to one of my Next Selves. And that makes it my responsibility, I think, not just to speak up for the voiceless, but eventually to yell at everyone else to do it too — because frankly comfortable people are cowards, and they need to be poked and made angry sometimes, or they won't do the right thing.
It's not a fun job, and there's a reason the Granny Witches are the ones who do it: It can be dangerous to anger the Herd, if you're not already established enough that they're afraid of turning on you. I'm not quite grown enough to take that work head-on yet, but I can see now that it's where I'm heading.
Step one, stand up under the weight of that abuse and that isolation.
Step two, realize that I have power, to defend myself and also others, and poke and prod myself into having the courage to use it.
Step three, realize that we all have power, and are idiots about using it at the right times.
Then, step four, gadfly the hell out of everyone, to help them be better whether they like it or damn not.
…Sorry, that one was a little heavier than I meant it to get; but not very sorry, since it's all true. :) Enjoy your Saturnday!