Yucky complicity

Dear President Trump,

I’ve been thinking a lot about complicity in the wake of the Harvey W revelations and have been trying to get into the heads of the passive, do-nothing witnesses. There have been two times in my life when I was in situations where I ended up feeling complicit in someone else’s wrongdoing. The first was when I worked for a pretty famous scientist right out of college and at every single lab meeting there was a horrible abundance of mean-spirited gossip about people who worked in adjacent labs. It was ugly and vicious. Being the goody two shoes I’ve always been, I tried talking with the second in command about it, but he said there was nothing we could do, it was just how Dr. X liked to operate. I always dreaded those meetings and felt really slimy when I left them, as though I had implicitly condoned the behavior by not speaking up.

The second situation involved another powerful (to me) white man and this time it had to do with getting clinical supervision. I was on my clinical internship doing a rotation at a children’s clinic in the predominantly Black part of town and my supervisor insisted we have our supervision meetings at the local Starbucks rather than in a private office. This time I did say something directly to the problem doctor but he said he didn’t care whether I was uncomfortable talking about patients in a public setting where we were outsiders, and if I wanted my required clinical supervision, I’d shut up and meet him at the Starbucks. I did and I didn’t tell anyone in charge until after I left the rotation and he’d signed off on my hours.

Neither situation was illegal or abusive, per se, but both men were taking advantage of their positions and had no regard for the discomfort and dis-ease they were causing those who worked under them. And I went along with them because I felt my job and getting through my training program depended on it. Very yucky. I can’t say I feel any better about the HW bystanders (or about the Republicans who are standing by watching you take us down), but I do think I understand the self-preservation instinct they sadly must have been or must be operating under.

May we all be safe to speak up when powerful people are abusing their power.
May we be happy to do the necessary gut checks.
May we gather support and strength from others as needed.
May those with power recognize it only demeans them to abuse their power.

Tracy Simpson

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