Today I bit my nails off. I don’t really bite my nails unless something is really bothering me. It’s one of those psychosomatic things. I know I feel heavy, am having trouble concentrating and like many, my heart really hurts. I’m just not as happy, have no pep in my step and I feel like I’m holding back tears whenever I think about these senseless murders that keep happening.
These people who have lost their lives could be any of us, seriously. I know we often say that, but this time, it is really true. And it is really frightening.
I’m also just stuck. I don’t understand why the country isn’t in a full state of emergency, how anyone is able to report on anything other than this or post anything other than something about all of this madness—how can they breathe and smile and work and travel and grocery shop and go on as if nothing needs serious, immediate attention? It feels like we’ve had a mega-earthquake, only, everyone isn’t shaking. Some people aren’t taking any real action or feeling the pain of catastrophe. They don’t appear to be traumatized by this earthquake (are they in shock?) and don’t feel a need to get into emergency survival mode.
A mega-earthquake in Los Angeles would jolt everyone across the country in one way or another. All corners of the government would be assessing the damage and needs, strangers would be helping each other out near and far, trying to figure out how we can better prepare for aftershocks and future quakes, tending to those that are hurt and in pain, and so much more. CNN would be dedicating around the clock coverage and updates, classes and work would be cancelled, social media would mobilize in new ways to mount stronger support, moments of silence would be held, and life as we know it would feel forever different. In a mega-earthquake, we would all be doing something even if it was just running around in circles and desperation trying to survive and make sense of the senseless.
So if you didn’t feel this recent, life-changing earthquake, that shift in the collective energy and mindset of millions and a real pause in your life, you are from another world and potentially part of the problem. It’s time to get your head out of the clouds and try to help make universal change, each of us. But how?
My youngest is still coming to our bed each night, complaining of nightmares. We normally just make room and go back to sleep, occasionally discussing his nightmares with him the next day. We listen to his recount about his nightmare, then reassure him that everything is okay, that he is safe, that the only monsters or ghosts in our house are the friendly and loving kind. Until today, I thought it was the monsters out in the real world that we would have to teach him to fear. Until today I thought that was the best approach, the one that would mean the difference between life and potential death, the one that might make the difference when/if he ever had to deal with the police. But today, I am at my end. Enough is enough. I have hit rock bottom and I’m now wondering―is teaching fear just making everything worse?
When we teach fear, we are teaching our children to be defensive and afraid. Policemen are equally taught to fear―they are afraid for their lives, afraid of misreading a situation, afraid of not being the hero, afraid that everyone is afraid of them, afraid of being that officer that gets it wrong, and like a lot of others, afraid of people who are different.
Not only are we taught fear when we have to deal with one another but it’s constantly mounting all around us―children are being poisoned by “safe” drinking water, suicide bombers are at airports, shooters are in schools and workplaces, reality-television presidential candidates regularly provoke violence without recourse, young men are raping women on college campuses right and left. There is much to fear. And yet, in fearing so much, are we just feeding the beast, feeding the fear monster who just makes everything that much worse?
I don’t have the answers, that’s why I’m biting my nails, but I do know nothing good comes from fear. Nobody wins when fear is guiding a situation―even the policemen (their families and personal communities) are forever altered after these horrible events and not for the better even if they try to act otherwise. Nobody wins.
These events are happening because of fear, sometimes on both sides. What if we could teach each other how to lead with love and concern instead of fear? What if we went back to basics and worked at humanizing one another, even those that seem to be furthest from comfort zones, who live worlds apart in political views, physical appearance, socio-economic status, race, culture and more? This type of change―moving from fear to love―starts at home, needs reinforcement at school, and requires re-training in the workplace/during the academy with refresher sessions every few years. Humanizing one another is basic relationship building and it requires a multi-pronged, lifelong commitment. It’s communication and sensitivity training, it’s regular discussions with children about race and privilege, it’s strengthening gun laws, it’s demonstrating kindness and forgiveness, it’s teaching respect for your fellow human being, and the value of life.
This sounds extremely naive and idealistic but it may just be this simple, or at least a good place to start. Sure we can and should protest, call our congressman/woman and make a case for more reform―and hopefully those things will do something positive too—but we each need to personally do something different.
What’s the saying? If you want a different outcome, you have to try something different. I want a different outcome. My being full of rage, contacting lawmakers and hoping they will get it right, and preparing to teach my children to fear police won’t create the type of difference that’s really needed. I need to try something new, perhaps leading with love.