Sh*t To Help You Show Up January 15, 2021
Unity = Accountability
“If people in the position of power are not made to be accountable, then, ungodliness, injustice and oppression will continue to be the order of the day in the society.”
― Sunday Adelaja, The Mountain of Ignorance
When I first conceived of this Friday round-up of resources I planned on it being a light-hearted, low-investment entry point into my little world here at Let Your Life Speak, and it may end up being that some week in the future.
But this week, when the United States is for the umpteenth time at an inflection point in terms of whether we will keep doing the same things we have always done and subsequently further erode our democracy, or whether we will step up and insist on some integrity to our political system and discourse, is not the time for light-hearted distraction.
Now is the time for some serious talk about integrity and accountability.
Integrity cannot exist in the absence of accountability. If there are no consequences when we step out of our integrity then our families, community, and society are constantly vulnerable to the whims of ego, abuse, and authoritarian power.
At its heart, integrity is relational. It is a question of the moral quality of our choices as we bump up against other people. Are we honest? Do we keep our promises? Do we honor our commitments? Are we trustworthy? Do we hold ourselves and other people accountable without shaming or dehumanization?
Integrity is the basis of trust. If someone else can rely on me to always try to do what is right, then they can trust me. Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Integrity, states “trust means to be careless”:
It means that you do not have to worry about how to “take care” of yourself with that person, because he is going to be worried about that too. It means that you do not have to “guard” yourself with her, because she is going to be concerned with what is good for you and what is not good for you. You do not have to “watch your back” with him, because he is going to be watching it for you.
Essential to this, implicitly, is that integrity demands seeing and valuing other people, which makes sense if you remember that integrity is based on wholeness. If you are approaching the world from your own wholeness then you will see other people as being whole as well, not projection screens for your own emotional stories, not simply tools for you to get what you want, and not, most importantly, less than human.
Integrity can allow for disagreement— about tactics, strategy, policy, and direction— but it cannot allow for dehumanization. When talking about racism, author Stephen Carter puts it this way, “It is far too late in the human day for any person of integrity to say with honesty, ‘I have thought the matter through and I have decided to hate those whose race is different from mine.’”
Can I get an amen?!?!
The same applies, to my mind, to every manifestation of humanity in all of its glorious, messy diversity— race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and on and on. It is too damn late in the game for anyone to argue that any other human is less whole, less valuable than any other, and make any claims to integrity.
Right now we, in the United States, are undeniably and painfully suffering from a lack of integrity— in our politics, our media, and ourselves. It could rightly be argued that our government, founded on the backs of genocide and slavery while proclaiming the equality of “man”, has always suffered from a lack of integrity. But the pace of social disintegration is accelerating, and we all, and our planet, are getting buried in the avalanche of our own hypocrisy.
We must hold our president, Members of Congress, service members, and law enforcement who planned and participated in the violent insurrection in our nation’s capital, which was motivated by white supremacy, accountable for their behavior. We can’t continue to allow avowed white supremacists to hold positions of power over our citizenry.
Dehumanization is the heart of white supremacy, and we cannot expect our system to develop any greater integrity than it has now if we do not stamp white supremacy out.
We also have to confront how we each participate in furthering the normalization of dehumanization in our own speech and behavior. Do we use language about our opposition or any other group that diminishes their humanity in our eyes and the eyes of others? Do we advocate, even under the cover of sarcasm or humor, that they be debased or harmed?
I can say for myself that I am often consumed with indignation and rage when I read the news. Though I instinctively shy away from physical violence, I will happily curse like a sailor about anyone in a way that I never would to their face. I would never call someone a motherfucker in person, but I will call the entire Republican Party a bunch of fascist motherfuckers on social media.
Are they fascists? Systemically, yes. And they should be held accountable for that. I can make that point with integrity. But I know I’m debasing them by adding the slur. If I want our society to be different then I have to insist on accountability for our leaders, and I have to hold myself accountable, too.
“There are a lot of black-hearted, mean-spirited bastards in the world. It's important that we hold them to account. But always remember that you might be the most black-hearted and mean-spirited in the lot, so hold yourself the most accountable of all.”
― Darren Shan, Zom-B Underground
I’m not saying any of this is simple. I love the judicious and well-timed placement of the word fuck. I’m also not pointing the finger or tone policing anyone else’s speech, simply my own. I’m definitely not suggesting there is a moral equivalence to my name-calling on Facebook and the storming of the Capitol.
I am suggesting that part of establishing integrity as a normative expectation in our society means that each of us has work to do to contribute to that effort. Having some humility about that is an antidote to our own portion of society’s dehumanizing sickness.
Over the course of time, especially in the next weeks and months, I hope you will sit with all of this. I would also encourage you to make time to listen to the Unlocking Us podcast with Brené Brown from January 13, 2021 on Words, Actions,
Dehumanization, and Accountability. In it, she offers compelling testimony about why there cannot be unity without accountability, how shame undermines accountability, and therefore, how shame is never a social justice tool.
She also makes a very important distinction between feeling shame and being shamed. If the folks that planned and mounted the insurrection feel shame, that is on them. But disingenuous calls for “unity” without accountability in order to avoid that shame will not fix this. We must respectfully and firmly enforce consequences, which is not shaming behavior, in order to salvage any hope of true democracy.
This is our work, but we can only do it together.
Sending much love to each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting my work. Please share widely, like (click the heart!), comment, and SUBSCRIBE if you haven’t already. Let’s grow this conversation.