Coal miners bring canaries with them when they go down under the ground. When the birds stop singing, it means they are close to poisons and it is time to get out of there. The birds are sensitive to the poisons and they alert the miners that they too are approaching danger. It’s a lot like life. Toxic words and beliefs damage our psyches and our souls. We need to carry an inner canary with us and really listen when it stops singing. I heard this story on a video by author and blogger Glennon Doyle Melton and it got me thinking.
My inner canary almost had a psychic heart attack. I was raised in a liberal Jewish bastion, lived in cities like Boston and Chicago for most of my life, was the token heterosexual writing for a gay and lesbian newspaper, staunch Obama supporter, advocate for mental health, environment, any cause to be just and worthwhile. I had teachers and therapists tell me I was too liberal and I would get into trouble on college and job applications if I didn’t soften my views. I didn’t buy it.
But when I got married, all that changed. Slowly, I found my old views slipping. I forgot about my friends from afar. I now lived in the suburbs. I began to listen to my husband’s staunch conservative Republican views and place less and less emphasis on my progressive HuffPost reading father. I found myself afraid to express a contrary opinion with my husband. When he knocked gays or the blacklivesmatter movement, I feared the one word that might enlighten him. My truth. The truth that only some people fit the stereotypes and the rest are just people like him and me. I had become the bystander and my beliefs were getting bullied. I thought of my mentors and friends, straight and gay, black and white, who suffered because people talked like that and believed like that. My father always taught me that when someone talked bad about a person of color or any other marginalized group those people suffered and that idol chatter oppressed people more.
Protecting My Inner Canary
My inner canary sings softly. It warns me of a toxic belief system that I wasn’t raised with in the air. Although, I was raised to see both sides of an issue and not to judge until all the facts were in and even then to see the situation as it is, I still need a soul reminder of the toxic sludge of our society. When I hear Hannity or Rush, conservative and even some unabashedly liberal pundits, I have to put up boundaries to prevent other people’s words and beliefs from affecting me. My canary thinks for itself and sings its own tune, a tune that is a compellation tape of everything my soul has ever experienced.