Being Out There Again – #reverb13 – Day 5

The brutal impact of self-censorship

Standing at the Precipice by Charkrem on Flickr

Right now, you are experiencing with me my biggest risk of 2013.

Back in 2009, after the kids came to live with us, the kids’ attorney advised me to consider cutting back on my online presence.

I was shocked. I felt sick.

It hadn’t occurred to me that the family of our children would be interested in my generally mindless online rambles. It turns out that they were.

The kids’ social worker let me know that their bio-grandmother printed out pages upon pages of this blog, in the hopes that it could support her and her daughter’s case that the kids needed to be reunited with them.

I believe the logic was something like this: “You can’t place our children/grandchildren with someone who is obviously unstable and here is the proof.”

For anyone who understands how foster placements like ours work, you’ll know that the role of foster parents is, according to the courts, very much separate from the expectations that are placed on the biological families to stabilize their own lives. This however does not stop these families from placing blame on any/everyone else involved in the case. This kind of action I understand now is deflection– a way to avoid making the really hard changes to life.

Regardless, it’s true that since 2009, my ability to feel “open” in my blog and with my online community has been greatly limited. How can I say what I feel (which is often loud, opinionated and sometimes full of representative cultural angst) when I have now changed roles? When my job title has changed to protector?

This year, since the adoption, I’ve been tentatively considering allowing myself to be more open in these spaces. It’s daunting… partly because I still feel exposed — geographically and otherwise. But also because I am not alone in this anymore. I have a new responsibility, and that is a great one.

However, one thing I want to teach my kids is that censorship, especially self-censorship, damages trust. It breaks down community. It lacks compassion. It erases cultures and histories. It stops people from being fully human.

It breaks a part of you.

So, that is my position. That is the precipice I feel I am standing on. It’s a new place to be and I don’t know how it will play out.

Today’s Prompt: What was the greatest risk you took in 2013? What was the outcome?

This post is part of December’s reverb13. Click the button to read more.

You May Also Like:

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.

 

Tags:

  9 comments for “Being Out There Again – #reverb13 – Day 5

  1. December 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Elizabeth, I admire you for trying to find balance in this area. It’s frustrating to curtail our rights when the system necessitates that.

  2. December 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Thank you Paul… Experiencing admiration has also been an interesting new experience since the kids came along! The one thing we have learned overall is that “normal” has many many different definitions. And by comprehending this fact, it helps to understand how people “manage” in crisis, poverty, and even in all kinds of social, ethical and moral “ignorance,” such as we might perceive it. Humans adapt to their lives and surroundings and create their own “normal” (kids are very good at this!) and it is very easy to judge from the outside, using a someone else’s rubric for the “correct life.” Not as easy is being OK with and living alongside with other kinds’ of life experiences that are different than your own.

  3. Lisa
    December 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I have a completely opposite view on self-censorship. I feel it HELPS community and builds trust because it put the need of others above one’s desire to express something. Obviously I don’t mean not speaking out against unfairness or wrongs being done, but, like tact, I think self-censorship is valuable. Not every thought needs to be expressed aloud, especially if it has the likely potential to cause anger/sadness/insecurity in the intended audience. There is truth in speaking what you think. There are degrees of truth that should be shared openly with others. (Maybe it’s a generational thing. “If you can’t say anything nice, ..”) I censored myself throughout my children’s early childhood because they didn’t need to hear the language (I do cuss a bit) or the anti-social music or many of my opinions that might not reflect their view of the world around them. I thought it showed them respect that my viewpoint didn’t have to be theirs and by censoring myself they were free to form their own viewpoints.

    • December 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Hmmm. Ok Lisa. I get what you are saying. Perhaps it’s a good idea now and then to keep one’s mouth shut and let sleeping dogs lie for the sake of peace, yes? I guess I fall more in the camp of I’d rather get caught stirring up a few hornets nests if it means changing or shaking up the dialogue. It doesn’t mean one has to be cruel or shouty (of course let’s be real: aren’t women generally “heard” that way if they are in dissent?), but it does mean taking the chance to knock on, open doors.

      “The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
      – Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  4. December 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I am so sorry to hear that your heartfelt words were used against you in such a heinous way, Elizabeth.
    Keep fighting the good fight. x

    • December 7, 2013 at 6:23 am

      One thing I will say, Kat, is that during that time I spent a lot of time reading other peoples’ blogs and thinking: “WOW, how wonderful to be so exposed and safe and anonymous at the same time.” In the end I think it ended up ok, and I learned so much about people I’d never known before.

  5. December 5, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Your post reminded of how we never truly grasp the reach of our words. What you went through is difficult without the added censorship issues. There is a time and a place, I think to edit of course, but at the end, living your truth is where the heart lies.

    • December 7, 2013 at 6:21 am

      Thanks Mehnaz… yes there was a time when I was “aware” that other people read my blog, but not really cognizant of its true available-ness to everyone and anyone. That changed.

  6. December 7, 2013 at 10:09 am

    This is so helpful to read. I have been through several years of self censorship because I (still am) was afraid my words would be used against me. It is hard to start again. There has to be some kind of middle ground between silence and too much information.

Comments are closed.