Friday, February 18, 2011

On Missing Sleep

In the past week, Tyler came down with a cold. It's nothing like the Winter Vomiting Virus that Tyler, Jen, and I all battled a couple of months ago, but the current cold was enough to wake Tyler up more than a few times each night, mucus attacking his throat and nose like angry red ants attack the kinds of things that angry red ants attack.

Thus, Jen and I have been lovingly batting our eyelids at that incredibly attractive persona: Sleep.

However, sleep has eluded us. We are both coming more and more to accept this as a somewhat stable truth: in the due course of parenting, Sleep is never a guarantee.

But I've had another reason to miss even more sleep than I should have this past week. A friend let me borrow Steig Larsson's Milennium trilogy, and I have been utterly and completely absorbed in the life of Lisbeth Sanders.

In the third book now, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (after having skipped the first of the three books because we had watched the Swedish film adaptation before leaving the States in September), it's hard to stop reading.

Lisbeth's journey is harrowing and tragic and sad and the part of me that won't stop turning pages keeps saying, She has to get justice! Someone has to do's going to be okay for Lisbeth, right? Right?!

And so, the pages turn and I keep hoping.

It strikes me now that Lisbeth's journey is far too familiar to many women the world over: at the mericless hands of players far more powerful than they, be they police officers, government officials, or men who happen to be on the same trains or streets where they walk, late at night.

What makes Lisbeth's story so fascinating, and yes, stand-up-and-cheer-for-her-ish, is that she sees the corruption within the system--she sees how despicably so many men behave, and they way so many wield power to abuse. Patriarchy, too often, is synonymous with misogyny. And so Lisbeth acts.

What stands out, of course, if the reticence and passivity of so many of us men. A recent book published by Lisa Shannon entitled A Thousand Sisters details the author's account of her transition from comfortable life to getting involved in the fight for justice for Congolese women. Shannon leaves a comfortable life in Portland, Oregon to travel to the Congo to work with women there, and she realizes what is at stake, and what atrocities are being committed against women every day, every hour, every minute, yes, every second.

Shannon's work is remarkable, powerful, and a model.

But what the fictional character of Lisbeth Sanders and the real-life journey of Lisa Shannon ask us is simple: Where are all the men?

Where are we, men, when women are abused? Where are we, men, when power structures that oppress women are held rigidly in place? Where are we?

The answer is, sadly, all too clear: we are often absent from the picture. As bystanders, we might like to claim, Hey, I'm not the one doing any injustice! But this line is woefully incompetent. Did such a claim work for those German citizens who sealed their lips during the genocide committed by the Nazi regime?

Before Jen and I and Tyler left for York, my brother Chris and I went to Washington DC. During our trip, we visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and I was struck--as most are--by the gruesome atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

However, in one area, I found myself standing facing a wall with a quote written on it in massive letters, taken from Elie Weisel's harrowing memoir Night. The line said, "God is dead."

As a Christian-male-feminist-teacher-writer--husband-father-Democrat, I stood looking at the quote for a long time.

A long time.

I asked God, How am I supposed to read this, Lord? How could I ever say to someone who has experience such horror that such a claim is false?

I stood there and asked God as tears came down my cheeks and my heart burned inside of me.

And then, God spoke.

I heard this small voice bubbling up, and the words that became etched in my mind and soul were: "I am not dead, but my people have remained silent."

The words shocked me at once in their simplicity and their truth.

And in every great tragedy--even and especially those tragedies committed in the name of God but really nothing more than mass murder at the hands of men pretending to claim God as an excuse--the above line has been true.

In the Rwandan genocide, where were we?

In the current genocide in Darfur, where are we?

In the destruction and violence against women in the Congo, where are we?

In the systematic oppression of women in every country on the globe, where are we?

It has become painfully obvious that men--even good men--would often prefer to remain passive on the issue. And it has also become painfully obvious that those who profess to follow a faith don't see any of Christ's numerous class to action on behalf of the oppressed as reason enough to look outside the walls of their own church, and try to find something meaningful to fight for.

Sadly, for many in the Church, protesting gay rights seems to be the only rallying cry to which they respond.

But Christ, if we read what he's said and done, does something far different. He fights for those who are oppressed. He stands with the persecuted, the defeated, the weak, the poor, and the needy.

Christ never says, blessed are the rich and he never says blessed are those who judge others.


It's time for men and for Christians to redefine--no, reinvent--the roles we have enacted for far too long. If we need a model, look at Jesus himself, who is startlingly different than most Christians I see today.

Jesus didn't dress in three-pieces suits, hang with the wealthy, and oppress women.

So, all of that to say that missing sleep is sometimes necessary when a voice of justice begins to creep into one's heart.

Perhaps we'll see a book like Lisa Shannon's come out which accounts for the way men will begin to stand up for equality and justice and oppose the oppression of women the world over.

Call me an idealist, but yeah, I'm holding my breath for this. It happens when those of us born into privilege are willing to peer out from behind the walls and see life as it is lived for the other 95% of the world. I've got a heck of a long way to walk on this path, but I want to try and follow the trail as best as I can.