Having a midnight internet trance. Clicking through to links that linked that linked that linked to my posts. Reading awfully sad things. Stories from survivors who didn’t “fight back,” and struggle with what that means to them, and what it means to others. “Fighting back” always seems to mean something physical, audible, or legal.
To expand my definition of “fighting back,” and share it, when appropriate, with the survivors who disclose to me.
If you’re alive, you fought back. Staying alive then was fighting back. Being alive today is fighting back. Being alive tomorrow will be fighting back.
Continuing forward, day by day, while carrying this attack within you, is fighting back.
Doing whatever needs to be done to survive, in the face of those who do not care very much for your survival, and sometimes do what they can to actively thwart it, is fighting back.
I do not mean to say that only those that live are fighting back. There are victims who “fight back” in the immediate physical sense and sometimes lose their lives. They were also doing what they felt was necessary to survive, were fighting for their survival in the face of somebody who wasn’t concerned with their life.
They did something no better or worse, stronger or weaker, harder or easier, more right or more wrong, than the survivors who must not fight physically, or scream loudly, in their attempts to survive. Some of those people will lose their lives, too, but not for a lack of trying to live. Not for a lack of fighting back.
Survival contains more than the one moment in your life when you wish you’d thrown a punch. Survival is the decision to prize the continuation of your life above all other things, all other people, all other beliefs, at all moments in time. “Fighting back” is as much a dramatic physical fight that lasts two minutes as it is the daily boring drudgery of getting out of bed, putting food in your mouth, and staying awake for 16 hours, day in and day out. “Fighting back” is prioritizing yourself above others, whether that takes the form of a very dramatic gesture or the form of a banal daily interaction that you soldier through with what energy you can muster. “Fighting back” is believing that you deserve to live, and live well, when very powerful forces are telling you that you do not, and threatening action if you continue to prize your life above all things.
I am so sad when I read the stories of survivors — people who have at some point or many points confronted and sought to change the very fundamental structure of their personality, their family, their friends, their society; people who have had the bravery to face a horror and then attempt the unthinkable, to make peace with it, whether or not this takes a lifetime; people who have been willing to dig down into the most rotten places to uncover the most rotten things; people who live each day with the knowledge of their own intense vulnerability and fear, and still get up and make breakfast and walk outside and speak to others about the weather — and hear these people define themselves as ones who don’t fight back.