“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.
What do you do when you have days when the “world is too much with you”? I do my best to keep from absorbing the raw pain of those in my personal life; some have life challenging illness, others chronic conditions. Some have lost jobs, while others have said goodbye to loved ones.
I also bear witness to what is going on all over the planet. Sometimes I succeed. At other moments, I get overwhelmed with the magnitude of what is swirling around me. Today could easily be one of those days when violence erupts like wildfire. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the idea of hatred as mental illness in the wake of the devastation in Orlando, Florida by Omar Mateen who opened fire in a packed Gay nightclub. Lest the incident fade into memory, I raise it as yet another world-gone-mad occurrence caused by deeply instilled vitriol.
What clamors for attention most recently is the shooting by a police officer (trigger alert) of Philando Castile‘ in the presence of his fiancee’ Diamond Reynolds (which she responsibly and remarkably calmly live streamed as the events were unfolding) and her four year old daughter and the execution style death of Alton Sterling; again by someone employed by law enforcement.
Both of these men were in their 30’s, potentially with a full life ahead of them. What these two had in common were the color of their skin. In an interview with the mother of Castile’, her statement was, “He was just Black in the wrong place.” His uncle who was also part of the CNN interview, continuously re-framed the shooter as “a man and not an officer,” whose job it is to serve and protect. Castile’ reported that she had advised her son to ‘comply’ if police ever stopped him. This, according to the video, he did.
As a middle class White woman who raised a White son as a single parent, I don’t have the same fears that the mother of a Black young man might have when her son leaves the house, wondering if he will come home. My son need not look over his shoulder when he walks down a street. He has no reason to worry if he is pulled over for a headlight being out. If memory serves, he might already have. It would be easy for fear to rule and for people with dark skin to feel, as Mrs. Castile’ shared, “hunted.” She asked that there be “checks and balances that hold these people accountable.” The truth is, no one should have to fear for their lives, either by those who seek to do harm or those who chose to take a job that implies the responsibility to ‘protect and serve’.
Then yesterday, officers were gunned down in Dallas, ostensibly to “teach a lesson,” and pay random White officers back for the murder of Black men, according to a statement from Micah Johnson, who carried out the shooting rampage. All three incidents were senselessly violent. Retaliation is not the answer. Social media is abuzz with opinions about gun control, racism, anger management and revenge. Those who unequivocally state that Black Lives Matter ( a rallying cry over the past year or so), are correct and those who claim just as vociferously that All Lives Matter, are equally right. The first would not be necessary to proclaim if people were respected and valued without regard to the degree of melanin in their epidermis.
What’s the answer? Peaceful protests, justice being done, prayers, action and even more important, deep understanding of each other. Seeing us as one people; diverse, yes, but also acceptance of what makes us unique.
I was fascinated with a recent Facebook posting by socially conscious Portland, Oregon singer songwriter Justin Bennett.
“What would you feel if you were at a rape prevention event specifically for women victims and a man came through and yelled, “men get raped too! “
I would find his timing horribly insensitive (most of said victims were victimized by a man!), and his point pretty weak considering the vast difference in numbers of men being raped vs. Women.
Does this mean I don’t care about men being raped? Nope.
Think about that the next time you say “all lives matter.”
A fellow writer for The Good Men Project named Michael Kasdan had this to share:
“Saying, “All Lives Matter” is like a kid saying: “Jeez, when is it ever Kids Day?,” on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. There is no Kid’s Day. Because EVERY day is Kid’s Day.
Just like responding to Gay Pride Day by demanding a Heterosexual Pride Day.
The movement is Black Lives Matter. And it exists because black men have been killed by police officers at insanely disparate rates. And that is deserving of our attention.
It’s not ONLY Black Lives Matter, or White Lives Don’t Matter. It’s Black Lives Matter. And it demands our attention.”
What’s an empath to do? Shields up. I know that taking on the traumas and dramas of others is not the answer. I used to carry the proverbial weight of the world and needed to put it down when I was almost crushed beneath it. Savior behavior and all that comes with it. Being a martyr isn’t pretty.
In midst of this worldwide chaos, I have gotten adept at self care, when in the past, I would have muscled on through, creating a “spiritual bypass,” as I told myself that I had nothing to complain about, echoing my well-meaning father, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’ll be all right.”
Nowadays I pray, meditate, exercise, spend time in nature, hang out with kindred spirits, dance, drum, cry when needed, laugh a bunch, read, express gratitude. Despite all of those interventions, there are still moments when I feel this emptiness and weariness attempting to overtake me.
I am letting myself off the hook and honoring my intentions as good and honorable. By bolstering myself and allowing others to support me and the planet, since we are all in this together, I can become an even greater force for good in the world. I can be the light and so can you.
Although I don’t believe in telling anyone what to believe spiritually, since it is quite personal and an inside job, I find this song comforting in the midst of chaos.