The perils of kindness.

Last night, sitting at my desk, trying to write a book review, I finally just burst into tears.

The book deals with Israel/Palestine, and the many brave and noble people attempting to find a path to true peace and genuine justice, and it comes on the heels of two other books that dealt with what amounts to the same subject matter — and last night’s book and the earlier two came at either end of days and days in which I was dealing quite intensely, in my writing and in my heart, with the topic of rape (a couple of times on this blog, on and on at Twitter, and elsewhere across the wilds and in the corners of the blogosphere), while all the while, people living across a swath of the world that holds a place very deep in my soul are being shot at from their own fighter jets and by their own police forces. And the public employees in some quarters of this country — teachers, for God’s sake! — find themselves faced with the possibility of losing their freedom to ever collectively organize again. And at some point I discovered that a (male) blogger had accused me (specifically) and other women bloggers of “raping” Lara Logan by choosing to use the story of her assault as a reason to write about rape. And then an earthquake in New Zealand….

What finally reduced me to tears was a good friend being kind.

In this case, the good friend happens to be a truly, genuinely lovely person who has spent his life telling the truth about Israel/Palestine, and the one clear thought I could get to (as I read his completely unrelated email and cried) was: How can the world still suck so hard, when there are such beautiful people in it?

I’m tired. I’m tired of the world sucking and of beautiful people dedicating themselves and their lives and all too often their deaths to trying to heal a world that still sucks. I’m tired of the ever-peeling layers of suckage — after all, just under “pro-democracy protests turn violent in the Middle East,” you’ll find “well-founded fears of chaos,” “well-founded fears of military takeover,” and “well-founded fears of economic collapse and further human suffering.” Under which, of course, you will also find “Lara Logan was brutally assaulted and more than 80% of Egyptian woman complain of constant harassment and women are raped everywhere, anyway.” Under which you will find… many other things that I cannot bear to think about right now.

It matters not that I’m tired. Not really. Despair and exhaustion are luxuries, and I already live in the lap of luxury.

But I confess that I have found it easier to not know over much about about Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, or Wisconsin and Indiana over the past 24-48 hours (oh, and Ohio. Where apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to lock the people out of their own statehouse) — or even of New Zealand, where, after all, it’s not the sucky people, it’s the sucky tectonic plates we have to thank for the wave of grief and sorrow now washing over a nation. It feels wrong to admit this. I confess that, too.

I’m going to the J Street Conference this weekend, and I think that will have to count as my good deed for the next week. Me being tired doesn’t matter — but me crying doesn’t help.  I think it’ll be helpful to go hang out in a room full of compulsive do-gooders for a couple of days.


  1. dmf

     /  February 22, 2011

    your despair and exhaustion mean something to me, apart from you being a lovely soul we need those who care about others to take care of themselves, this is not a luxury but a necessity if we are to make the kind of deep, consistent, and enduring efforts that such titanic struggles require, enjoy the company of angels of our better nature.

  2. Oh, ee, I wish I could give you a hug in person. I know the despair of which you speak. Oftentimes, it’s a matter of fear triumphing over the beautiful. I hope you’re taking breaks to replenish your soul. Sadly, all these things will be here after such a break.

  3. sue swartz

     /  February 22, 2011

    Emily, my do-gooder friend and fellow traveler: crying is not only justified, but good for you. GOOD for you. Crying and raging at the universe, good for you. And good for the universe.

  4. Shadow's Mom

     /  February 23, 2011

    Emily, I wish I could hug you though we’ve never met face-to-face. It is tough when the abyss yawns before you, but there are many, many paths around, over, and through it. As Sue wrote, crying is good for you; tears help to cleanse the spirit. I hope that your J Street experience helps to nurture your soul.

  5. CitizenE

     /  February 23, 2011

    It is easy to see from your experience and from that of Michael Chabon’s when he sat in for Ta-Nehisi why blogging is not for the faint of heart–kindness/cruelty–so many “in your head.” It certainly seems to prove the difficulty that Ta-Nehisi has to encounter, and beyond all the times you are praised or blamed for what you intend, there are the far more commonplace situations in which for lack of precision in the blogger communication and misreading in the reactions to that communication attracting painful misunderstanding. I personally do not know how people have the patience for it.

    • dmf

       /  February 24, 2011

      did me in as a mere commenter, it’s a pretty limited/contextless form of communication and when it involves more than a handful of people it inevitably goes south.

  6. SWNC

     /  February 23, 2011

    Emily, I’m sending loving, restorative thoughts your way. Even though I’m no longer a believer, I often find myself singing this verse of an old hymn: “Sometimes I get discouraged and think my work in vain/But then the Holy Spirit restores my soul again.” I hope the Holy Spirit or your Inner Light or whatever your want to call it, restores your soul again soon.

  7. I hear you. Please take care of yourself. Self-care is important. Even in the face of everything that’s broken in the world.

    I hope JStreet is awesome. It was pretty amazing when I went and I blogged it compulsively ( — I would go again this time, but it turns out that my sweet 15-month-old doesn’t travel well and for personal reasons I’m not able to leave him with his dad or grandparents during the conference. So I’ll have to rely on those who are there to tell me all about what I missed!

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