Saturday, July 9, 2016

We are all horrified

---From a shared Facebook post by Jim Hightower
Once, in my early high school career, I joined a group of kids who decided to skip school and hang around someone's house listening to John Lennon's White Album, which had swears in it. Two of the members of this group had terrible reputations.
But I wanted to see what it was like to be a badass. 
I squirmed with guilt the minute I knew my first class was underway and nothing felt better until 2:15 when I could go home and stop feeling stupid and disappointing. 
My mother found out of course, and asked me why I'd done it. I told her I didn't know why. Then, in veiled teen speak, I asked if she thought I was stupid and disappointing. 
I might as well have asked her if I was not actually a human, but a mountain lion. 
"No," she said, mystified by this. "Of course not. Why would you think that?" 
She didn't patch a few facts together and pretend to know what was going on with me. She just loved me and wanted to understand. And, so, she asked me to tell her what she didn't know.

Some time later, I told her how much I liked talking to her because she always "understood." Actually, she told me, she didn't always, because her life and experiences were nothing like mine. But she always listened. 
The honesty of that distinction has been on my mind lately, with respect to the "Black Lives Matter"movement and the "All Lives Matter" response that appears to frustrate everyone. If I get this even a little, both sides have a different take on the meaning. The "All Lives" people see the slogan as divisive, while it is meant by "Black Lives" to suggest greater inclusion, a desire to have one's fair share too. Not more. Just as much.
But what I hear above the din, over and over again is a response I understand better than any: don't explain what you haven't experienced.

Jim Hightower's post on misunderstanding which appeared several times in my newsfeed recently appeals to me for its elegant truth:  We can differ in history or culture and other characteristics of identity - race, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin - and still  honor each other on common ground: we are human beings who love other human beings. 

Our children, and parents, and spouses, our family and friends.  

And we don't want to lose them. 

It isn't the inability to relate to the lives and loves of others that widens the divide. It is the inability to admit that you don't know more about a thing than you do, and failing to ask for enlightenment. It is failing to locate and honor that common ground where we share more than we don't.

Especially now. 
Because, now we share Dallas.
We are all horrified.
We were all horrified by Sandy Hook, and Oklahoma City and Orlando. 

And 9/11, the first time in my memory when the country, united by massive trauma, turned to itself for comfort, then fell to either side of our common ground in the month or so after, when, just as we were hoisting flags and listening to Lee Greenwood, some politician blamed another for "letting this happen," and there we were, united and polarized in crisis.
Here we are again, united and polarized by crisis, this time with a black, blue and white conflict at its core.  
However we dissect cause and effect, we are all horrified by the taking of lives not lived, people not at fault. We have all been left under a cloud of apprehension, a feeling of dread – where will the next one be? How bad? Who will die when an officer interprets a civilian's show of fear for his life as a threat to his own? What video will go viral?
I'm losing heart. Like others, I fear growing less horrified, and I dread the next crisis that will crowd this common ground with broken-hearted people. All different in ways that matter less than those in which we are exactly the same.  
I'm going to start with that.
I'm going to ask, I'm going to listen, I'm going to read, and I'm going to keep showing up at the humanity party as a life that does not matter more than any other.

Even if I wish I could do more.


  1. I used to think I was insulated in New Hampshire, then things escalated in Manchester and now I know I am only insulated in my house. The problem is that there is so little I can do and the problem is so huge that I am already doing just what I don!t want to do...shrug my shoulders.

    1. So many relate to that feeling of being overwhelmed, but a wish to reach across the divide plays out in every day interactions, I believe.

  2. For me here in Texas it feels, at least today, the most important thing as an ally is to do what you said. To listen and to keep showing up

  3. It is overwhelming and it is difficult to wrap my head around all that is going on in our country but I still have hope. I still believe in the goodness of people and I know that love wins out in the end. I have no shortage of love so I am giving it away and hope that that makes a small difference --at least in my corner of the world. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Beth Ann, so true. The best things at the core of us keep us moving toward each other, I think. I really do.

  4. Thank you. I lived in Manhattan then, and after the first couple of weeks never thought of 9/11 as anything but sheer horror and divisiveness. People, from other parts of the country, would tell me how it brought people together and all that--and well I can go on forever about how it changed my life.
    I moved to the South seven years later and while it will never be home in the way NY is home. I have grown to love and respect the people much. Yet the past month or so has me wondering if I belong here.
    One thing I do strongly believe in despite all that has happened in the past 15 years, maybe because, is that people are good and want to care about each other.
    Thanks again for a great post.

    1. Thank you, Pia. You have experienced this trauma in a way most of us have not, and obviously have let your heart guide you to the places where you should be. Love saves us, it does, every time. I've never believed it more.

  5. I think you bring up a great point in is our outrage being dulled with the routine business of shootings. It is horrible and unacceptable, and there is no reason, except for hunters to hunt wild animals, to own a gun, and why can't police shoot not to kill!