“My rights don’t end where your feelings begin.”
I was sharing the dental care aisle with a young man studying toothbrushes. He was slightly built and wore a long black beard. His hair touched his shoulders. He was wearing a long sleeve shirt with the quote printed on the back.
I wasn’t sure what the quote meant or why he thought it important enough to wear. I was curious but not enough to ask him, mostly because I was skeptical that he would have interest in explaining his intent to an old lady.
I am still pondering the quote.
What was he saying to others about himself?
Was he angry; was he afraid?
What if the quote said, “My feelings don’t end where your rights start?”
I think the roots of the quote are somewhere in the reports that people were saying things like “I’m not going to wear a mask just to make you feel better.”
Feelings, I’ve got feelings
OK, through some feat of mental gymnastics, some have convinced themselves that wearing a mask or getting a vaccination to make millions of people feel better is simply not good enough to make them do either.
Simple is right, although it’s true that millions of us would feel better if unvaccinated people did not spread the Delta virus. We don’t want to get it; we don’t want it to mutate to something even more virulent than the Delta variant and we want the pandemic to end.
None of that’s news and not really what concerns me about the message of the quote. Instead, I am saddened by the rejection of our very humanness, that is that we are blessed — or some would say cursed — with an enormous capacity to feel.
When I write about feel here, I am not writing about my fingers feeling the keyboard. I am writing about emotions we feel like love, hate, anger, hope, despair, sadness, joy, fear, confidence, disgust, admiration, unsettled and contentment.
All and more are inherent in humans. Note feelings are not rights as in the right to free speech because feelings are already part of us — no president, congress or dictator allows us to have them nor can they or a policy or a law take them from us.
My sadness spikes over what seems to be a growing lack of concern for the effect of mean even ruthless characterizations directed at human beings for simply having their children wear masks to school.
Or in its extreme, remember the ruthless behavior of rioters who stormed the capitol on Jan. 6, who pushed, hit and taunted capitol police who were doing their job to protect the capitol and the workers in it.
All to be followed by certain elected officials and conservative media minimizing and ridiculing four capitol police officers who testified to the brutality of the rioters and asked the house select committee to find out why. How is it that those mean-spirited people don’t care about those and other officers who faced a maddening crowd who didn’t care about them either and some of which called for their execution that day?
I am certain I am not alone in wondering about the feelings of another four officers who, after Jan. 6, killed themselves. Could they have been so thoroughly devastated by the ease of rioters to injure, maim, taunt and even kill them without a thought of them as fathers, mothers, sons, daughter, lovers.
What despair they must have felt to end their lives. Was there no one to show them in the aftermath that we are better than the rioters and we do care about them?
People who need people
Recently, my husband experienced a setback in his recovery and had to be flown to a Seattle hospital. After a night without sleep, I made my way to the hospital after canceling medical appointments, getting the cats care and reserving a room. I knew I was on the edge of emotion because I felt teary every time some expressed concern.
Fast forward to husband’s discharge two days later and our night in the hotel. In the morning, I made my way to the breakfast area on the top floor and discovered it was a grand buffet with no provision for taking food back to the room. I told the receptionist my circumstance and soon I was made an “exception” and told I was “special.” I was given two boxes and help filling them with breakfast. The staff felt my fatigue, my worry, my pain and broke protocol to show their concern.
I felt grateful and could hardly speak for fear I would fall into their caring arms sobbing. Right then I needed them and they gave. They didn’t know me and we will never see each other again but I carry their gift that strengthened me for the trip home.
The gift strengthened something else too and that was my profound faith that humans can be and often are caring about each other and will make sacrifices for no gain but for another stone on the foundation of our common humanity and good.
These officers needed and those living need to know that we know the riot happened and it was wrong. We should not abide under the guise of “politics” the wanton destruction of these individual spirits and the larger spirits of truth and justice.
When should the right of soulless free speech end?
Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.