This may sound strange, but when I was growing up, I wanted to be Joan of Arc.
Or rather, I wanted all the fame and glory that comes with being Joan of Arc (minus the arrest, trial, and tragic execution). Leading a revolution is complex business, to say the least, and I didn’t have the slightest idea how one did that. All I knew was that I wanted to change the world, and maybe, somehow, end up being the first Jewish saint (yes, I was a very strange kid).
So when I saw an article in the New Yorker comparing Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez to Joan of Arc — or at least, to Renee Maria Falconetti, who is an older doppelgänger of Gonzalez in her role as Joan of Arc in the 1928 silent film — I had to laugh, because my 17-year-old self would have been blazing with jealousy.
It’s quite an honor to be compared to a saint, and in one of America’s most famous media sources, no less. But my 29-year-old self isn’t jealous of Gonzalez. I admire her, no doubt. But I don’t envy her.
Gonzalez, like Joan, didn’t choose her mission. She wasn’t seeking fame or glory. Rather, it was something that happened to her, through no fault of her own. She had the tragic experience of watching her classmates get shot, and was lucky enough to walk out of her school alive that day.
I’m sure, if asked, she would give anything to go back to life before the tragedy, when her biggest worries were homework and crushes and getting into the right college. Not being the (no pun intended) target for harassment by NRA supporters and conservative pundits who, no doubt, have only added to her trauma.
Gonzalez has found a way to use her tragic experience for the greater good by advocating for stricter gun control laws. But if we lived in an ideal world, she wouldn’t have to do that. With her newfound fame, she is undoubtedly learning that warrior status comes with a price.
The real warriors, I have learned, don’t go seeking a cause for their own self-promotion. They’re not in it for the glory of a hero’s parade. They are making the most of their situation in a way that benefits others, often at great risk to themselves.
In her book The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren writes, “I was, and am, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes.”
For me, “dishes” includes not only literal dishes (and other household chores), but going to work every day, paying my bills, feeding my cats, and other “ordinary” things that don’t make my life unique in the slightest. Maybe for you it’s changing diapers or taking kids to soccer practice. No one gets out of “doing dishes.”
My idea of leading a “revolution” is no longer a literal battle, but will most likely look like speaking up if someone says something racist in such a way that implies I, a white person, will agree with them. “Revolution” could mean making sure I vote in the primaries, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. “Revolution” is calling out toxic theology that encourages intolerance of the LGBT community, or white-washes history.
My biggest weekly participation in “revolution,” however, is maintaining a resource about interfaith identity, and a community to discuss related issues with. I don’t expect to make a huge difference in the world anymore, but I can make a dent in a small corner of it.