Hi everyone, this is Colin. Sometimes I introduce myself as the author and creator of the Seventh Valkyrie series, but I’m more than that. I’m an American, a Louisianian, a New Orleanian. I’m a white straight cisgendered upper middle class male. I’m an expat and temporary legal resident of Costa Rica. I’m an athlete, a soccer player, a traveler. I love to eat meat, but not too much, and drink and have a good time. I also like to spend quiet time inside.
I guess I start all of this to say that I, like everyone else, am complicated. And things have gotten pretty damn complicated in the world recently.
Today, I’m talking about America, and I’m gonna talk about race, and most importantly I’m going to talk about empathy, and caring. Because I don’t give a damn what you believe, who you are, or where you come from, if you care for others, or you try to, then I support you.
It’s Easy to Look for Enemies
The world is infinitely complicated. So people want things that make it simple.
If you look throughout history, that’s why fascists rise. I don’t think of fascism as a political force. It’s not conservative or liberal, socialist or capitalist. It’s primal. It’s tribal. It’s human. So no, I’m not attacking my conservative friends.
Humans are tribe animals. When things get too complicated, we reduce the world around us, we huddle close to tribe. We find “the outside”, and we push our problems onto them.
I’m not speaking like I’m somehow above this. I do it too. Hell, I had to rewrite this article a few times because of how tribal it came across, and I’m writing about the damn thing.
So I get it. It’s easy, so freaking easy to turtle up, and blame everyone else outside of the tribe.
I See This In America
I look around the country, and I see a conflict between people who desperately want to protect something and people who desperately need that thing to change.
For many Americans life was good. Life has been really good. The vision of America is theirs, it’s their home, it’s something they recognize, and care about, and will fight to protect.
For many Americans life was fucking terrible. They see a country in which they’re outsiders, undervalued, oppressed, and beat down. They feel marginalized, many with good reason.
And between those people, we disagreed on how to make america better, because both are supported by something fundamental.
The people who love it already, they have a right to that, to protect it. The people who feel treated poorly, they have a right to that too, to demand change.
And the only true answer, the only American answer, is a compromise, through listening, caring, and trying to find a way of life that works for everyone.
But we haven’t done that. We fight, and we disagree. We’ve become tribal, and the flames of hate are rising.
I would kill for an easy answer, but there is none
I see people who refuse to care even as they fight for what they believe in. I see people trying to understand, and others attacking them for it. People have been hurt, and so they lash out, because they don’t like something, they want to destroy it.
It comes from a place of fear, and sadness, and it saddens me, because it won’t bring about change, just more anger.
Misunderstandings, uneducation, disagreements… they do not make you evil. I don’t understand the complexities of black culture, or of true southern pride, or the various LGBTQQIAAP+ subcultures, but I can try. And if I make a mistake, I have wonderful people who can correct me.
But just because someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t understand you, does not make them evil. Life is complicated. People are complicated. And in order to live in this world we have to care.
I see this shutting off of caring in politics right now, with the current administration, because anyone who tells you they can solve all of your problems at once is fucking lying.
Because they’re telling you that it’s easy. And the world is not easy
I don’t trust our president and I don’t trust the republican party because they’ve given up on complications, they’ve given up on caring. Our president is clearly a narcissistic man-child with deep insecurities who will die unhappy. But he is a symptom of a political culture of not caring.
I know conservatives. I have no problem with conservatism. I have a great deal to gain from conservatism. If you’re a conservative, I have no problem with you, and I would love to argue with you until sunrise about policies.
But the republican party no longer stands for conservatism. According to their official platform, they believe in two things. America first, and the president.
Conservatism is complicated, and nuanced. It stands for something.
But I have a huge fucking problem with a party whose platform is “follow this guy”, because it tries to make the world simple. The world is not simple.
And the moment you try to believe that everything can be made simple — that you classify real people into good guys and bad guys, make complex issues into sporting contests — you let the opportunity for evil into the world.
And I have a huge problem with that. It doesn’t take much to snuff out evil. It just takes caring. But caring is hard.
Case Study: Caring About Race in America
One of the biggest issues in the country right now is over race. We have a legacy of systemic inequality in this country, and if you don’t believe me, then you are not living in reality.
I do not blame you for slavery, or lynchings, or Jim Crow. You were not there. But I do expect you, as an American, to damn well try to understand what happened.
As races we are different, we’re unequal both in population and societal position, and that scares me because it’s from conflict to combat. People have stopped caring. People are being shot in the streets.
And ultimately, it is because we cannot see where each other stands. We have stopped caring enough to try.
The Idea of Privilege | Empathy and Understanding, Not Guilt
I see the word privilege tossed around like a dirty word. People talk about privilege, and they get really defensive about it, like someone acknowledging their own privilege diminishes their own value.
Some treat privilege like it’s a sin someone has committed by being born with more opportunities.
Privilege is not a sin. It’s not something you have to atone for. It’s something to be aware of.
Privilege doesn’t mean that you were given everything! Hell, I have privilege, but you better be damn well sure I’ve worked hard at what I’ve done, and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise.
In some ways, we all have privilege, because privilege comes in all forms. It can mean being born in a peaceful country, or simply having enough food to eat. It can mean not being born with degenerative diseases. It can mean having any parents or family at all!
Privilege doesn’t diminish you. We all have privilege in some way. It doesn’t mean what you’re doing is easy.
Instead, it just means understanding the story of other players in the game. When you “check your privilege”, you’re just taking a moment to be mindful and fuck it, grateful for what you’ve been given in life.
Racial Privilege in America
I say all of this to disarm the concept of being aware of privilege, which whites have in America. Race is a factor in our culture. Like it or not, we do not live in a post-racial society, especially when there are still people alive today who lived through segregation.
And when two groups are separate, and one is much larger than the other, there is an imbalance of power.
I saw this in my fraternity. We had 70 or so white, mostly Christian brothers. 7 or so non-white brothers of various creed, race, ethnicity, religion.
We had a collective groupme, one where there were lots and lots of offensive jokes made. One of my best friends told me it made them uncomfortable, but they didn’t want to make a scene.
I went and talked to some of the guys who made the jokes. They said they were only jokes, just sent there because they were funny. I said that they hurt and excluded some brothers, and tried to explain why it was important to be conscious.
They told me that they were tired from a long day, and they just wanted to play video games and make their jokes.
Privilege is being able to go upstairs and play video games, and avoid the conversation. Because when you’re a minority, those jokes can be your life.
Simply put, privilege is the ability to not care, because it won’t come back to us. Those guys wouldn’t make those jokes in the middle of downtown Atlanta, but in the safety of a groupme, they would.
In a way, privilege is the ability to feel like you don’t need to care.
You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong
I want to stop here before I sound too preachy or superior. You not caring, and just wanting life to go on, that is natural. We can’t stop and care about everything on the planet, otherwise we wouldn’t live our lives.
You didn’t do anything wrong by wanting to enjoy your life, and privilege doesn’t diminish you or your journey at all. What you’ve done is spectacular
But you weren’t born with no legs, to a poor mother in India who killed you the day you were born. Most people weren’t, but we’re not going to compare everybody to that lowest possible standard because then we can wipe out every accomplishment because it was done through privilege.
Privilege is just something to understand. It’s about empathy for others.
Understanding Privilege and Race
To bring it all back around. If you’re reading this and you’re white, Jim Crow was likely not your fault. You didn’t own slaves. You’re probably not consciously racist.
But if you think about blacks as ‘other,’ or if you pretend that in the 60 years since the Civil Rights movement, with a massive population difference and economic difference, that their situation is at all the same as yours, it’s foolish!
It’s not your fault. You don’t have to do anything about it to atone for that. But you can at least acknowledge that there are differences. We should no longer claim to “not see race.” We need to see each other’s stories, and value them as different and wonderful.
The key is simply empathy. It is seeing that there are differences between you and someone else, and caring enough to try to understand.
Empathy and Continuing to Care in America
I ask this question to you: Do you care? Do you seriously care? Or do you only care up to a point? Where is that point? Because beyond it, that is where evil dwells.
I do not believe in innate evil. I don’t think anyone is born evil.
When We Stop Caring
I DO believe in learned evil, and I believe that the only learned evil sits right beyond that point where we stop trying to understand others, when we close off our hearts and we stop caring
Hitler’s rise in Germany would have been impossible if the vast majority of people had cared enough to truly consider their actions. But the things that they cared about were immediate, and beyond their bubble they stopped caring.
And because they didn’t, it took one crazy man hungry for power, and a movement of similar people who had stopped caring to change the world for the worse. They turned a lack of care into fear, and then they turned that fear into power, and with that power they committed the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen.
I look at my country, and I see many people who have stopped caring about each other and only care about themselves and their tribe, and that scares me. Because once you stop caring, once you stop trying to understand the other side and you no longer see them as your fellow human, beyond that boundary any evil is acceptable to you.
I know current republicans. They have been my fraternity brothers, and my neighbors, and my friends. Fuck’s sake I grew up in Louisiana. And I know that many of them have stopped caring because they’ve been told that their heritage, their homes, their communities, and their traditions are deeply wrong and evil.
I know the hardline activists at the very edge of the left, who want police officers dead, who want the whole government turned to ashes because for too long they’ve been told that they are wrong, or immoral simply for the way that they were born.
What both of these people have in common is that they stopped caring because they were afraid, or because someone else before them stopped caring, and they gave up.
And as I see the news, of riots and shootings, of a discourse burned to ashes, I see us divided. I see a country that has stopped caring. They have closed themselves off.
From a political and strategic standpoint, I don’t know the way forward for our country, nor do I claim that that would be possible. Policies, money, spending, they all benefit someone more than others, and they will never be perfect.
But I yearn for a time when we can care about those things, when we can discuss policies, money, and politics again.
Because we are not talking about policies right now. We are talking about an issue of the soul. We are talking about something fundamentally broken in our country.
If we continue to care, then we are still the America I believe in. But if we stop, then we have all allowed evil into our hearts.
Whoever You Are, All I Ask Is That You Care
This universe is a grand machine dictated by laws of science, and yet it has somehow given rise to the magic that is humanity. No matter what your creed or religion, we are all given to the belief that humanity is something special, is something more than just chemical reactions and biology.
Would you write someone off — for all their stories, for all the complexities that have made them, for all the joys and sorrows of their life, and all that you might learn from them, disagree or not, for all the magic that they represent — simply because you’re too lazy to put in the effort to understand?
I don’t say this from a point of superiority. It is hard to care. I wake up every day and struggle to, and I fail sometimes. This world is complicated. This world is scary. To live a full life means to embrace pain, and sadness, and suffering, and to lose.
It takes incredible strength every day to care, to continue to search for joy and hope and understanding even in a world where many people have stopped caring.
But the alternative… the alternative is to give up, on people, on your brothers and sisters and family, to decide that your world, however large, or however small, is all that matters.
And the only evil, the only true evil, comes when you give up.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.”
I believe in that. I believe that people want to be good, and that they want to care, but that it is hard.
Dr. King was not a perfect man. He was an adulterer, and he had his flaws. Hell, the men who founded this country, they owned slaves, they were misogynistic.
We as a country did not give blacks humanity until the 1860s, a voice until far later. We marginalized women until the 1920s and continue to. Gays and people on the greater spectrum of sexuality struggle for equal rights even today.
We are not perfect. And we never will be. But the greatest evils of human history are marked by the actions of those who stopped caring, and the bones of their victims.
Please. As my friends, fellow Americans, on every side of the aisle and beyond these borders.
For those who are clinging to a way of life and a history that they love. For those Americans fighting for a way of life that they’ve never had. And all those who stand between, who have the privilege to simply turn a blind eye, to lazily pick one side and stop caring.
In these times of strife and division, when we need you most, please don’t close your heart. Do not give up, though it seems every day makes it harder, though we stumble and fall and try again imperfectly.
Please. Do not stop caring.