random thoughts

Underbelly

I’m visiting my mom this weekend, and as with all conversations this time of year, we’ve spent time reflecting on 2016 and looking forward to 2017. At the end of one of these discussions, which had drifted towards politics, my mom summarized the current atmosphere, saying something along the lines of, “2016 has sure revealed some of the ugly underbelly of America.”

At the time, I nodded in enthusiastic agreement. What she said captured why so many are in discomfort right now – because this underbelly was always there, but more and more of us are seeing it for the first time. Those of us in places of privilege are starting to see what we’ve been privileged enough to ignore. It’s uncomfortable; it comes with a sense of shame (for not seeing it before), guilt (for ignoring it before), overwhelm and responsibility (what are we going to do now), and continued disgust (why isn’t everyone as appalled and ashamed); and for me it’s been a big part of why 2016 seems so unsettled and, well, gross.

Which is why, I think, she used the word “underbelly.” Merriam-Webster says that underbelly is “a corrupt or sordid part.” The part that no one wants to see; the part that drags along the ground, dredging up muck and collecting dirt and grime.

But the underbelly is also “a vulnerable area.” It is the part that is soft and tender, the part you need to aim for in order to weaken, maim, kill an otherwise armored beast.

In 2017, let’s re-aim our collective quiver toward this underbelly. Each of us doing our own part to prick this underbelly is worth more than one of us trying to do something dramatic to bring down the entire thing at once. Thinking about this has made the fight ahead seem less overwhelming – that doing something small yet intentional is indeed a way to make a difference.

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