Conflicting Expectations

Activists lead multifaceted lives. We engage in the struggle towards peace and justice, while balancing our personal and family lives, work, and down time.

What makes this balance even more delicate is when we face conflicts between what we love, those we love, and how we live. Some of us have families who support us in our activism, while others come from more conservative backgrounds and have to constantly defend their choices to irate relatives.

Others find themselves in hostile workplaces, having to bury their viewpoints during water-cooler conversations, even ones as inocuous as how one spent the weekend. Involvement in peace rallies or conferences on progressive themes could be hazardous to one’s employment.

These are extreme cases. Most rational adults are able to agree to disagree, even pushy family members or right-wing bosses. Sometimes one can have interesting conversations with said people, and in doing so, continue the process of defining ourselves and what we stand for.

Still, standing up against the status quo is difficult even when you are firm in your beliefs. The most personal example I can think of is balancing my heritage and culture as a Jewish person when speaking out against the atrocities committed by Israel towards the Palestinian population. I have had to address numerous accusations from friends, family, and community questioning my identity as a Jew.

I suppose the same could be said of a child of a military family who grows up to be a pacifist and anti-war protester. Or a person from a privileged background becoming an advocate for the poor, or even further, a staunch critic of capitalism.

Part of activism is standing up to these expectations about who and what we are, when they run diametrically opposed to our causes. It brings us together in solidarity.

Paula is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Her website is: