Silence is an acceptable response

Should I say something? I have wondered this week. Does The Wellness Almanac have an obligation to speak eloquently to recent revelations arising at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Is that kind of what we’re here for? And what? What words will offer care and love? What words will be part of the healing, and not contribute, again, to trauma.

So I watched. I let the pre-scheduled posts that I had already written publish themselves.

Many others have moved into action, into ceremony, into posting statements of support and solidarity, into expressing outrage or grief online. These days, when it’s become so much harder than ever to gather together, we’ve turned to social channels for virtual community. I have. It’s been a pandemic reflex – log on, seeking connection, log off quickly, feeling overwhelmed. There is no holding that can happen in the virtual world. No weaving a larger container by being in each other’s presence. It all just crashes over us, our nervous systems.

I hugged my kid and explained why the flag at his school was flying at half-mast and he responded by telling me an elaborate story about tanks and bombs and space cowboys, and I thought, I’m not sure what went in. I’m not sure whether to push this. How far to take it right now. I don’t know how to do trauma-informed parenting. (That’s probably attributable to the privilege of my life.) I don’t know how to do trauma-informed community engagement.

Trauma-informed journalism is journalism that seeks to inform, not overwhelm, readers. I take a few minutes to read about it.

Trauma-informed approaches have already been adopted in schools, doctors’ offices, and even yoga studios. What could trauma-informed journalism look like? We must re-examine our values and go beyond current practices to make sure our content is responsible to and resonant with those who need it most.

Anne Godlasky, Niemen Foundation

These words remain with me: responsible, resonant with those who need it most.

Not “responsive” ie not responding with a sense of urgency. I check that reflex, which years managing social media accounts and crafting press releases and engaging with the news cycle has amplified. Gotta be responsive!

Maybe not like that.

Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash

Angela Sterritt, from the CBC, has said, “One key lesson I’ve learned in 20 years: important journalism takes time, and should never be rushed. The future will thank you.”

IndigiNews Okanagan, an independent media outlet covering stories and amplifying Indigenous voices in Okanagan + Van Island, posted what became my guidance:

Indiginews posted this reminder to their community:

A gentle reminder to take care of yourselves. To take time offline. To drink water. To move your body as much as feels good. To take more time offline. To be outside. To reach out for support. To give yourself permission to laugh, to be joyful, to cry, to be numb, to be slow, to be however you need to be.

I want to say, with the greatest tenderness and love, to my community (just as I’ve been talking to myself over the last few days): if this is shocking to you, if you are heartbroken and outraged, find a “container” to process those feelings. A friend. A safe relationship. Understand that this is not shocking or surprising to many people, the people who may be re-traumatized by your response. Consider whether your social media channels are the right place. Will that add to anyone’s trauma? Ask yourself a hard question – are you virtue-signalling with your post of solidarity? are you trying to escape the weight of your own feelings by updating your Facebook profile?

Our instagram editor, Amanda, shared a request: Provide a warning slide or caption, before you post images or posts.

What is our first obligation here, in response to this revelation, as a community: is it to express our outrage? Or to hold space for survivors and to commit to protecting each other from any more harm? Silence is not violence if it just means refraining from posting something on your social media channel. Silence is violence when you are physically standing next to someone being harrassed, abused, or assaulted, and you don’t say anything. Silencing your social channels might actually be a gesture of profound and deep respect.

Am I right? I don’t know. I honestly don’t.

My silence is intended in this way. And it’s intended to make space to centre the voices and gestures of those who are living at the heart of this story. My personal job, as a white woman, is to build my emotional stamina, to be able to deal with exposure to things that my privilege has insulated me from, and to listen. And, as small and futile and invisible as it feels, (because it feels like it’s happening inside my body, and so is hardly real at all,) to send waves of love and compassion throughout our community. I am trying to metabolize my own sorrow, grief, perplexedness, and anger, instead of broadcasting it, so that what I can broadcast, in whatever way I do, is love, safety, honouring, respect. Is this an offering that can protect survivors? I take in my sorrow, I let out love.

May love and healing prevail.

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