I’m busy printing out proofs to attain a payday loan. It is a long shot, last resort sort of move on my part. There aren’t any options left beyond a ridiculous interest rate over 50% and steep penalties should I not meet the strict requirements of repayment of that criminal amount of interest. It should be a crime for such life crushing loans to exist. And yet I am working to get one, and desperate to hear them approve me for this loan that I believe to be criminal.
It is nonsense, really. But it makes all the sense when you live in the margins, where there is never enough, and you are treated with contempt and barely considered human, much less treated with the grace and kindness and compassion that humanity should garner.
These days, I don’t know what “humane” means. I don’t know that “humanity” exists in the way it once did. Or, more correctly, I don’t know that it exists in the way that I had imagined.
I was running very late for a doctor appointment the other day and needed to take a Lyft instead of a bus. My driver, a Somali native, said something along the lines of “selfishness is human nature”. I wanted to argue that was not true. I wanted to express the compassion and love that humans were capable of offering one another. And then I thought better of it, knowing that I was suffering needlessly an economic situation that could be eliminated with just a few dollars from the people who call me “friend”, and knowing that this man, having emigrated from Somalia, knew selfishness and pain and racism and judgment and xenophobia and messed up fucking shit that I, an already despairing woman, cannot even imagine. Who was I to tell him that humanity has something better to offer??
Instead, I made a statement about perspective and how much we are shaped by what we experience in our lives—hoping to avoid agreement that hurting those whom we can place beneath us so that we might rise is human nature, but also not arguing that we are better than that, because I don’t feel like we are better than that very often of late.
I sit at a desk covered in images of Wonder Woman. I built it. I covered it in these images deliberately, because I found it inspiring. Not only do I sit and work atop a work of art when I am well enough to do work, but I also have a deep sense of justice and love and giving of myself to improve the state of the world, and she embodies that for me, and reminds me that my end goal is a world filled with love and justice. What I do at this desk should be focused on that goal. And to a great extent my work is focused on that goal.
But more and more my focus is fear. There is worry over finances. There is stress over what I read in the news. There is the sadness and the horror that comes from seeing the world become more broken, fractured, confused, and afraid as a particular world leader creates xenophobia, insecurity, unrest, racism, and general hatred and chaos. There is pain and struggle and the fear that the future will become even more difficult than the present. And that isn’t just my personal fear, but the fear of millions, which is even more heartbreaking, because of my deep empathy. Wonder Woman and her ideals seem worlds away while I work atop images of her from generations of comics.
I wonder if Donald Trump ever watches super hero films or reads comics. Do you suppose he sees himself as the hero or the villain? He certainly doesn’t have the ideals of the hero, so he must be delusional if he identifies as one.
I know that I am not the hero in any story. I sometimes get painted as one. Ask my brother-in-law about Christmas Day in Seattle and he will tell you a tale that makes me the hero of the story. But I am not the hero, because I only did what any human should do—I helped a woman in need. I felt her pain, I met her in it, and I made certain that she was safe in the hands of professional medical personnel before I left to attend to my own needs. That is the least that we should be doing for one another. The absolute least.
There is so much more.
So. Much. More.
Recently, I had dinner with my “brother”, Adam. We were talking about need and giving and enough and excess. He talked about aid that he had offered our nephew, and the way that he had added a component of “paying forward” part of the funding that had been offered to him. Give to another, the way Adam gave unto you.
It sounds a bit biblical, right?
It is a bit biblical. Because there is a verse in the bible that is pretty much the same. It is found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13, verses 34 and 35. It says, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I suppose that means if my nephew pays forward a third of his college aid, he is a disciple of my “brother”. Haha. There are definitely worse men to be disciples of, so this is probably a good thing.
The point I am working toward here is that the goal that we as humans are meant to be working toward—according to Jesus, and according to Adam, and according to Wonder Woman, and according to the feeling in my gut—is offering love and compassion and physical needs and grace and equality and honesty and kindness and more than enough. And I don’t know when or where we lost sight of that, or whether we ever truly had that in our sights as a society at large. But our heroes—the embodiments of the best of us—have always had that in view. We need to cling to that view.
I should be focused on what I can do to continue living out the ideals of Wonder Woman, not on what I need to desperately print out to prove that I am worthy of a criminal payday loan! No human being should be forced to sell their soul so Speedy Cash out of fear that they won’t live from the 28th to the 1st, and will lose their home, contact with their family and friends, and the ability to obtain sufficient calories to sustain their body. And when some of the people are in this state while others are jumping off of fancy boats in the waves on a weekday morning, we are not loving one another as we have been loved. We are not giving to one another as Uncle Adam gave to us. We are being selfish. And we are letting Somali men believe that this is just the way we are as humans—that this is just who we are and will always be: selfish bastards who trample one another to elevate ourselves.
Are you a selfish bastard who tramples others to elevate yourself? Is that who you want to be? Is that what you want to be known for and what you want others to believe defines the human condition?
I cannot abide that. I cannot tolerate that. I cannot accept that.
I won’t let humanity be a giant game of “king of the mountain” where the ruthless climber is the winner. Not if I can do anything to help it.
And I can do something to help it. You can also do something to help!
We can all stop accepting the idea that selfishness is a part of our DNA and refuse to let humanity be defined by anything but the heroic ideals of love and generosity and compassion and care and grace and good. We get to define who we are, as individuals, as a society, and as representatives of the human condition. We decide.
So, decide now. Are you the kind of person who lets payday loans take the souls of disabled, poor women struggling to make ends meet, or are you the kind of person who changes the narrative and refuses to let this be the way that we treat the people in the margins? Are you the kind of person who is ready to stand up and work hard to eliminate the margins?
It will be difficult work. Change always is difficult. You need to learn, you need to change the voices in your head, you need to assess the things that you believe and challenge the beliefs that you have held for many years. So much of our bias is unconscious, and it takes a lot of self-reflection to work out what we think, and then to consider the ways that thinking might be incomplete, inconsiderate, or just plain wrong. But if the choice is between doing hard work or letting down humanity, I choose hard work every single time.
Today, I still need the payday loan. And it breaks my heart to know that I need to sacrifice in this way. It is a terrible choice. But there aren’t good choices in the margins very often, unfortunately. Maybe at some point I will have better options, or there won’t be margins, and humanity will not be seen as selfish, but as loving and generous and compassionate. Maybe on that day payday loans won’t exist—they actually will be criminal, as in illegal—and disabled women will not be afraid of starving or living under bridges because of financial challenges. If enough of us choose care over selfishness, this will be reality.
So, choose heroic ideals instead of payday loans. Don’t let Somalian Lyft drivers believe that this is who we are as humans. Don’t be this as humans.
We can do better.
I know that we can do better.
Follow Jesus, or Wonder Woman, or Adam. Choose heroism over selfishness and do better.
As I have loved you, so you should love one another.