Butterfly Wings in Interesting Times

Does every generation feel what I feel when watching history unfold all around them? Lately I feel caught up in an unstoppable flood of events, like videos I’ve seen of mudslides which scrape entire houses into the sea. The word “unprecedented” has been tossed around frequently in the past two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to the point where I think longingly of the boredom of predictability. Through the pandemic and the global climate shift and unresolved economic shifts I’ve gained a sense of the vastness of historical events. Events are so big and I have so little control over them that it is tempting to just try to hunker down and survive.

Yet one thing I learned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter / George Floyd protests of 2020 is that I am responsible for the power and privilege that I have. My lever to change the world may be tiny, but I am accountable for my use or non-use of that lever.

I can’t make it so that the Russian invasion of Ukraine didn’t launch yesterday. I can’t repeal the order from Governor Abbott of Texas where he classified transgender healthcare for minors as illegal abuse and commanded Child Protective Services to prosecute parents for it. I can’t change the big climate-change-driven storms across my entire country. But there are things I can be doing. The effect of them is small in the immediate realm, but I take courage from the idea that the flap of a butterfly’s wing in one place can affect the weather six months later on the opposite side of the planet.

So I’m flapping my wings today. I’m posting information and action items about anti-transgender legislation in my state. I’m monitoring those posts to make sure that whatever conversations spring up around them are managed and shepherded by me instead of left to become toxic. The existence of these posts volunteers me for emotional labor to educate people who may have not thought much about these issues before. I’ve allocated mental resources to manage this for the next few days. Other things in my life may take a small hit.

Other tiny wing flaps that are in progress: Ongoing attention to anti-racist efforts. Today I’m focusing on anti-trans legislation, but I also have my eye on local book-banning and government over reach into teacher’s jobs. I’m thinking about installing a Little Free Library in my front yard that I would stock with diverse literature for both kids and adults. I’m also occasionally nudging city politics because we need more middle and low income housing. Currently every city in my county believes that the apartment complexes should go into neighboring cities instead of their city. And I’m slowly changing the landscaping around my house toward being desert friendly instead of water hungry because water is going to be increasingly scarce in the next decade. Then there is all the community building work to help shape my church communities, and to help the individuals in my writer communities thrive.

None of my actions can move the needle in the short term, but I’ve come to be a firm believer in the slow and steady turtle who eventually wins the race. I can’t focus on all of these things every day, but I can cycle through them as I have time or attention to spare. Small actions accumulate. And with every small action to exercise the power I have, I do a tiny bit to make the world better.

World events are giant, but I can do better than “nothing” in response.