I rarely comment on current events. It is not because I don’t care or are not paying attention. More often than not, I don’t feel qualified or well spoken enough to speak on these matters. However, last night I watched citizens of Dallas, TX run for their lives as the sounds of gunfire rang in the air. This morning, I woke to the news of five police officers dead due to that same gunfire. Days before that I watched not one but two videos of black men bleed to death after being shot by police. My heart feels heavy and confused. And while the words I write on this page will do little to change the world around me, I feel the urge to just say something.
I cannot begin to understand the fear that my life and the lives of my community don’t matter simply because of the color of our skin or because of the person we love. I cannot begin to understand the risk of a career that requires me to put the lives of others before my own. (See what I mean about feeling unqualified?). However, I do understand grief and pain and the loss of someone gone far too soon. I understand the anger of losing someone to something you feel you have no control over. I’ve helped plan a funeral. I’ve sat down, surrounded by family and tried to pen down an obituary of someone so loved it felt ridiculous to try and distill their life to words on a page. It feels heavy and it feels impossible.
Please understand that I am not trying to compare my experiences to the horrendous events that we have witnessed this week. I believe what I’m trying to sort through in my own jumble of thoughts is that the things humans share far out weight the things that make us different. We share a desire to be loved, cared for and protected. We share fear, sorrow, pain and loss. On the outside our differences may be more evident but at the core of it all, we are all just people.
And speaking as “just” a person, I cannot understand the hatred. I cannot understand the need to react against violence with more violence. I just keep coming back to the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the five police officers and countless other families who are experiencing tremendous losses due to senseless gun violence. While I’m at a loss of what I can really do as “just” a person, I still believe that love is far stronger and greater than hate. What I know I can do is try to extend more grace, live with love in my heart and move forward with the conviction that kindness matters.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
My Senior year of High School we experienced a string of suicides, by the time I was 18 I had attended 8+ funerals. They brought in motivational speakers, counselors and made us read books that were “supposed to help”. I don’t think it helped, I don’t think that death is ever easily understood and made better with charismatic speaking, questions or good quotes.
Death is death; it’s what humans have feared all along. Somewhere around the 4th funeral I lost all emotion to it, there were no more tears and overcoming sadness there was only numbness. I’ve been numb to death ever sense, allowing it to be noticed but in no way allowing it to penetrate my emotions. It’s like I made a pact with myself to not shed a tear about it and haven’t really ever since. The past several years, the past month and the past week have been stirring up all of these thoughts and feelings. There is an enormous overwhelming sadness and a huge sense of grief for the victims and families of the most recent shootings. From Orlando to Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, I feel such a sadness and confusion towards this violence. Like Nicole, I have no understanding of how this could be. How could we be choosing this violence against each other and ourselves? How could we be making death and dying such a standard news topic, I fear this because I know all too well that after awhile you just go numb to it. We cannot go numb to this; we cannot comply with these types of actions.
Gun violence in our country is a real thing, our country is considerably more violent than other developed nations, THIS should matter. This should be scary, this should change policy, and this should change hearts.
The hatred must dissipate. I know that anger is easier than grief, numbness is easier than grief, inaction is easier than grief, and silence is easier than grief. But keep choosing grief. Keep choosing the harder road, the one less traveled.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not hersey, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel. Whatever confusing part I play, however small and insignificant, I choose to not be indifferent, I choose to let go of hate, of anger. Things must change, an injustice for one is an injustice for the whole and I do not accept that. “When we choose instant relief in the form of rage, we’re in many ways choosing permanent grief for the world”- Brene Brown
May we all wake up to the realization that a person is a person is a person. People matter. Kindness matters. I hope for my own heart to step into each day with love, acceptance, kindness and grace. I reject judgment, I reject bigotry, I reject hate and I reject fear.
“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”
― Georg Christoph Lichtenberg