Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Speaking and Sharing and Safety and Silence
On the evening of June 1, as we held a vigil for Dr. George Tiller, the first US abortion provider murdered in over ten years and a longtime hero to many of us, there were men with video cameras and microphones recording for the local news. I felt so conflicted. We had chosen a public place in a busy part of town in order to make our presence and feelings known -- it seemed important to gather not just to stand with one another, but also to be there for passerby who felt the same way, and to be visible to passerby who didn't know or didn't care or disagreed, and to ask our leaders to do a better job of protecting providers. If anything, a mention on the local news would help spread those messages. But as the men with microphones and cameras kept scooting into our talking-circle, the attention was the last thing I wanted.
One by one, people were stepping into the center to offer a memory of Dr. Tiller, words of comfort for the rest of us, some sadness or anger or some hope or a call to action -- and inevitably ended up facing into the camera. If someone tried to face the rest of us, or turn elsewhere, the crouching equipment guys would shuffle over to be right in front of the speaker again. And despite our intentions of public sharing, I felt like these newspeople were taking away our brief opportunity to just be with one another. In the end, I didn't say anything at that vigil, uncomfortable with the public-speaking vibe and happy to listen to others say their piece. It was still a good gathering, in whatever sense you can call a death-gathering "good."
Ten days before the murder of Dr. Tiller, a short movie called "Silenced" was screened for the first time at a reception honoring clinic escorts. Between finding this movie and learning about Dr. Tiller's murder and holding the vigil and watching the news afterward, I had a lot of thoughts in those weeks about gathering, speaking with one another, speaking in public, and being silenced. And now sometimes when I write in this blog, I find myself wishing that my words could bypass the broadcasting to all the channel-surfers who don't really care or only see this as a spectacle, and only reach those for whom they would be helpful -- for example, the clinic workers who told us our posts are a form of support that you don't get in your small towns. You're one of us, too, and you keep me writing when I feel frustrated, focused when I feel co-opted. So thank you.
Anyway, here's that movie that I keep thinking about: