I'm going to be 50 in one week. I could spend the next 500 words detailing how much that sucks because my body is rebelling against me in some specific and horrible and potentially embarrassing ways, but you know what? Fuhgeddaboudit. I'm going to be 50 years old in one week and right now, I don't have time for that bullshit. I have spent my whole life going along and getting along, and while I've been outspoken about some things, there are others I have passed over and smiled about and swallowed my words. But tonight I'm not going to. I can't.
Me & my BFF Stacy, getting our radical on in the rain. Here's the deal: I'm flipping around my twitter feed and find out that people are attacking Heather Armstrong because she went to Bangladesh and came back and wrote about it. "Poverty tourism," they are sneering.
Never mind that Heather wrote about her trip in the most clear-eyed, transparent way. She didn't write with the attitude of "OMG I saw amazing things in Bangladesh and now I'm going to fix everything." She was very open about her feelings of helplessness and that she didn't know what to do to help the people she met, but that she felt compelled to tell their stories.
That was not good enough. The freaking Guardian newspaper attacked her, as Mom-101 talks about in this post. Other bloggers attacked her (not gonna link to them. So there).
They attacked her, basically because she went and learned about Bangladesh and had the temerity to write about it.
The weird irony is that, had she visited and learned about the cathedrals of Europe and written about it, far fewer people would have attacked her (though some still would have, because some people attack her no matter what she does, just because she's Dooce). Certainly the Guardian wouldn't have weighed in.
So let's recap: learning about the conditions people in poverty live in = bad. Traveling around looking at old buildings = Yay! Stuff to cross off your life list.
Makes perfect sense.
What I really want to say to Heather is: screw those people. Non illegitimatum carborundum, as my dad would have said (in fake Latin): don't let the bastards grind you down.
For me, this is personal, and let me explain why. I grew up with people like that - the "Why bother?" people, the nothing-is-good-enough-to-do-because-it-will-just-lead-to-more-trouble people, the doubters and the deniers and the skeptical.
I have spent years answering their questions about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and trying to justify why it is worth doing and seeing their sneers and enduring their put-downs. And while I'm doing my little bit, they're sitting on the couch and eating Doritos and rolling their eyes at me.
Well, at 49 years and 51 weeks, I can say I'm proud of the things I have done or have tried to do. Five prisoners of conscience whose cases I worked on with Amnesty International got released from prison. People who were in for doing terrible things like listening to forbidden radio stations. Was that due to something I did? I will never know. Dictators don't send back postcards saying "Ok, you win." But I know I tried.
About 10 miles of oak forest stand because a bunch of us environmental wackos said that we didn't want them chopped down. We yelled and protested and did skits on street corners and got petitions signed. No one sent us a congratulations card when the corporation changed their decision to cut them, but I know those trees still stand.
I've supported women from war-torn countries through Women for Women International. I have given Kiva loans. I have written letters and signed petitions. I have volunteered at the soup kitchen and marched and screamed and testified in front of the City Council and Board of Supervisors and the Minerals Management Service.
I don't know how much good I have done and I never will know. I certainly haven't done as much as some. But I can say I have tried. I don't want a reward in heaven. I don't want praise or a gold star on my permanent record. What I do want, at age 49 and 51 weeks, is for the critics to shut the hell up and let those of us who do give a shit to get on about our business without having to listen to their whining.
If you need any inspiration for ways to contribute to the world being a better place, see any of my other posts for the past 6 weeks.