My last post was on May 31, over a month ago now. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with everything going on in the world (especially in the United States) and with myself. I see a world deeply yearning for kindness, mercy, and civility, and not enough people hearing or heeding the call. Deep in feeling an internal dialogue, I am constantly asking,
- What can I do when I feel powerless?
- How do I use my voice and privilege to help those in need?
- How do I want to show up (or not) in the midst of all of this? And
- What does all of this mean for my own little multi-cultural family?
My little guy has reached an age where he has a lot of ideas about what he wants and how things should be. He also seems to have developed very high expectations of himself (sometimes unreasonably so). He has a stellar vocabulary, but when the emotions run high, he struggles to express himself. And what do I say (with as much loving kindness and patience as I can muster)?
“Use your words, Rohan. Take a deep breath and use your words.”
Use Your Words
So now I’m going to heed my own advice, take a deep breath, and use my words:
It’s been particularly tough out there lately. Every time we dare look, another scandal, betrayal or injustice leads the headlines. In particular, I’ve been hard hit by three things,
- The Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee debacles (different, yes, but in some ways the same…and ever so strangely feeling now like a vague, distant memory)
- The tragic, too-soon deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both by suicide, and
- The intensified ICE “crackdown” on undocumented immigrants, and particularly the administration’s “zero tolerance policy” which resulted in thousands of people being arrested and imprisoned for misdemeanors and – worse – separated from their children as they cross the border.
These three things keep swirling around in my head. It’s a nauseating, headache-inducing, heartbreaking cocktail of so much of what is wrong in the world and the life-and-death consequences of our increasingly harsh, compassion-starved, winner-takes-all society.
Deeply Saddened…But Unsurprised
None of this news came as a surprise to me. That alone saddens me. I once had a decidedly rosier, more naive view of the world, of humanity, and of my country. While I still believe in the potential for all of these things to be truly beautiful and love-centered, I now recognize the breadth and depth of the devastation that humanity wreaks upon itself time and again. And I see clearly the extent to which people allow fear and perceived scarcity to inform and motivate them. It’s hard to surprise me these days…
Barr & Bee
Barr and Bee? They disappoint me regularly with their abrasive communications. I’m no Pollyanna myself, but I so strongly believe that the type of communication they repeatedly choose fuels anger and drives division. And to my mind, the saddest part of these twin debacles was just that. They poured fuel on the raging fires of division that have been burning in America for so long and made it worse.
“Cunt” is not a word that should ever be used to describe a human being, no matter how repulsive we find their words and actions. Bee had a valid message to convey but her delivery was poor. And Barr’s comment is just so far beyond the pale that I don’t even want to address it. Funny? No. Absolutely not. Profoundly damaging and hurtful? Yes. To our more melanated brothers and sisters, to the good people of Islam, to anyone working for unity and justice, and I would even argue that it hurts the haters as it drives them deeper into their pits of ignorance, fear, and scarcity.
Our words carry weight and have influence. They have energy and power. They can foster kindness and connection or drive division. It’s up to us, how we want to “use our words.”
Immigrants & Innocents
Dear God, the situation on our southern border has been devastating to watch unfold. Again, there is no surprise on my part. When one factually and rationally evaluates the people who make up the current administration (and some who are no longer there but wielded significant influence early on), one really cannot be surprised. The president’s cabinet and closest advisors include numerous known racists and nationalists. For them, implementing a “zero tolerance” immigration policy was likely not only – as Stephen Miller said, “a simple decision” – I would imagine it was also one in which some found great perverse pleasure.
As for Trump himself? He has shown us time and again who he is, what he is made of, and what he believes. In fact, he demonstrated it quite clearly in his first campaign speech for the 2016 elections when he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
We knew better, and if we didn’t, we certainly should have. In the sage words of Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Perplexed About Policy
Watching the misery of children being torn from their parents, seeing them living in conditions not befitting any normal and healthy childhood, and observing the horrifying lack of institutional, procedural or moral integrity playing out before us has been too much. Claiming God’s support for an unfathomably cruel policy by twisting passages of the Bible to suit a corrupt agenda is an abomination to those trying to live according to God’s word of Love.
Ignorance and confusion around immigration law and procedure abound. There’s a total lack of awareness of the horrors people are fleeing from, why they come here…and significantly, how US foreign policy helped create this very situation. We don’t clearly understand the difference between policy and law. And far too many of us are unwilling to set party loyalty aside to take an unbiased historical look at how various administrations, both Republican and Democrat, interpreted and enforced immigration law.
To make matters worse, there is such intense dehumanization, obfuscation and gaslighting going on that it can become very difficult to stay oriented to truth and hard-core facts, even for the most dedicated among us. Is it any wonder that the masses don’t understand the history behind and implementation of the very policies we’re arguing about?
But you know what bothered me most? Silence.
Silence from family. Silence from friends. And silence from government representatives, from businesses profiting from the debacle, from everywhere. It disappointed me. But far more than that, it terrified me, as I wondered what it would take for people to use their freedom of speech, resources, privilege, and God-given voices to advocate for what is right and good.
And then it happened. Social and news media published and shared the photo that shook the nation over and over and over again. And it was just too much. It broke our hearts.
And people – the ones who are typically quiet or just “don’t do politics” – began raising their voices. Slowly and with a palpable sense of apprehension, they started stepping forward and declaring their disapproval of “zero tolerance,” of separating families, and holding children in cages lacking comfort and emotional support. I don’t know if they recognize how vital their voices are and will continue to be as we work our way through this mess, but I hope and pray they continue to be vocal publicly and regularly. I’m so grateful and relieved that their numbers are ever growing.
Still, many remain quiet. They stand on the sidelines, share pictures of their lives, but they won’t dive in. And I wonder how they could hold back? How could they possibly believe this is the best way to handle an admittedly difficult situation? Should America’s distaste for immigrants continue to grow like the cancer that it is, will they stand up if my husband or my little boy fall victim to discrimination, hate, or hurtful policies? I wonder and my heart aches and my faith and trust in them stretches thin as I try to give them the benefit of the doubt…
Kate & Anthony
News of Kate and Anthony’s suicides while profoundly sad and thought-provoking didn’t evoke shock in me. Depression and anxiety have had a strong presence in my life for about six years now (and on-again-off-again for decades prior). I know what it’s like to feel so isolated and hopeless, so trapped in my own world that I can neither leave or invite company into, that ending my own life seems like an entirely sensible choice. And I know that our culture played a major role in fueling my complete and utter despair. No one, regardless of their accomplishments, fame or riches, is immune to that.
We also learned that there has been a surge in incidents of suicide in America in recent years. Kate and Anthony, sadly, find themselves in the company of far too many others who also died by their own hand.
Today, looking at Barr and Bee and ICE as microcosms of all that is wrong with us, Americans, both individually and institutionally, I can imagine how both Kate and Anthony might have felt in this excruciatingly harsh reality we’re living in, and the thoughts that likely tormented and comforted them.
I can imagine, but ultimately, I really don’t know. And I won’t speculate further about their untimely deaths out of respect for them and their loved ones. But I feel very comfortable saying that they likely shared a deep yearning for a much kinder and civil world.
Yearning for Kindness & Civility
Fellow Americans, we are sorely lacking in civility. And practicing kindness and mercy seem all-too-often to be seen as a manifestation of weakness.
We hurl hurtful words at each other and call each other names. We sort ourselves into groups and declare that anyone outside of my group – whether it’s constructed around race, religion, nationality, income, education, political beliefs…whatever – is the enemy. Compassion and a genuine desire for understanding are in short supply. We’ve made up our minds (too often without even a fundamental grasp of the subject at hand) and we’re not here to listen. If you’re not okay with that you can just leave.
Every day when we wake up, we are given the precious gift of a fresh start. We have the opportunity to choose how we want to show up and who we want to be. Will we be loving and considerate? Will we listen with patient curiosity as we seek to understand? What kind of friend, neighbor, or citizen do we want to be? Will we generously give others the benefit of the doubt before leaping to judge? And what legacy do we want to leave?
Be the Change
It’s so hard to choose kindness and vulnerability again and again when we’re surrounded by – and we ourselves feel – so much anger and pain. But choosing love – even if it’s a passionate, angry love – again and again and again is the only way I see through this mess that delivers us to a peaceful outcome.
So although it’s painfully exhausting, I will choose – over and over again- my attitude and orientation to the problems that face us, and how I will move through the world. I choose to:
- Clearly understand the facts of and accurately address wrongdoing and injustice when I see it.
- Seek, understand and build upon the bonds that connect all of us.
- Find (or create) and take advantage of opportunities to amplify love in a way that is honest and meaningful.
- Share my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences so that others may know they aren’t alone.
- Help those who are in need, to let them know that they aren’t alone, to acknowledge and celebrate their beautiful humanity.
- Be the person I would want to meet in my time of crisis.
I choose kindness.
Change comes slowly, so I fully acknowledge that this will be trying and that there will be times when I just want to give up. I will not give up. This world needs healing and I’m determined to do my part. I hope you’ll join me.
Allowed to Be Human
Along with choosing who and what I want to be, I will also allow myself to be human, to struggle, to stumble, and to want to give up. BUT, I will not allow myself to give into those feelings. I will practice good self-care and keep getting up and dusting my weary but determined self off. I will seek out and create moments of peace to restore my soul so I can carry on. Because I believe in love, I believe love is the answer, and I won’t stop until love is humanity’s guiding star, always, all ways.
It took me over a month to write this post (Bee & Barr seem like such distant memories now). Several discarded drafts, numerous sleepless nights, and lots of incredibly tough feelings have transpired along the way. This post is overdue and even out of date. But that’s okay. Because I’m just a human being who’s struggling with some painful realities while trying to remain committed to love. I didn’t show up when I wanted to or felt that I “should” but here I am with my heart on my sleeve (and my tail between my legs just a little).
I promise I will keep showing up for you and for whoever needs me. Thank you for showing up here; you keep me going.