Tuesday, July 12, 2016

See and Hear

You know, I had a lot of funny posts in the works, but not today.
Not after the madness that was this week.
I just can't.

And I'm not talking about Pokemon GO (totally different post for that later).

No, I'm not at all.

You see, less than a month ago, my hometown experienced its own great tragedy. And, in the days following the largest mass shooting on US soil, I watched my feed light up with fixes: more guns, less guns, more Muslims, less Muslims, all of the fixes. All of the "if we do more of X, then stuff like this won't happen." All of the, "It's THEIR fault--all those crazies who think the opposite than we do. THEY'RE killing our country."
And it made me sick.
Just stop it.
Stop using tragedy for your own bloody soapbox. Lives lost are not bullet points on your debate strategy. Just mourn. We don't want fixes immediately. We want hugs. We want "I'm sorry." We want "How can we help?" We don't want to be a feature in your latest political agenda. Don't take advantage of the hurting like that. It's insensitive and cruel.

Then, this week, five Dallas police officers lost their lives protecting protesters.
Shot down in cold blood like they were less than human.
These were heroes lost. And, yes, I do believe cops are heroes. That they are brave to choose a career of long hours, of blood and sweat, of too much paperwork and too little time, of tears and outrage and fear. Yes, they are human--humans make mistakes and some humans are less than kind. But, on the whole, it is not a career for the weak of heart or spirit. I have profound respect for any human being who chooses a career of serving and protecting complete strangers, sometimes at the cost of his own health, safety, and even life.  That is incredible.
Please remember that I said these things. That I love and respect cops.  That I am the farthest thing from a cop hater.

Source: KVEW-TV

Prior to the death of these officers, two African American men--Alton Sterling and Philando Castile--were shot by police officers despite being unarmed.

Source: The Observer

A couple of my FB friends began posting the video of Castile's murder and commenting that it was just too much.  Otherwise, not a peep.

The next day, my feed EXPLODED with mourning for the Dallas police (as it should), but, still so few of my white friends said anything about Sterling and Castile. My stomach churned. 
I had two African American friends still talking about it--one posting information on other shootings of unarmed African Americans and another a video of a man remarking on how his white friends would rage on gun control or terrorist strikes but they grew remarkably quiet on race issues--not a peep.

And, again, the pit in my stomach.

You see, the cogs in my brain started turning.
  • IF race relations with the police were not a real issues, why was it still a hot topic? Why were so many African Americans still upset? Was it all because of the media? Does the media really control us to that degree?
  • IF this was only a topic in the "ghetto," why was I seeing this topic posted all over the economic board? 
Why wasn't it going away?

And I wondered if, maybe, this wasn't just about sensationalism and the vampire media? If this wasn't just jaded people looking for someone to blame? If this wasn't just the workings of people looking to make money off of pain? What if maybe, just maybe, it wasn't just about these specific killings? What if all of this was about past experiences--past wrongs--and these tragedies (all life lost is a tragedy--deserved or not) were just triggers? What if this was about a great many people collectively shouting, "Me too! It's me, too! Please see me! Please see and know! I'm here, and this is me, too!"

What if they kept screaming because we weren't listening?
Because we were so busy throwing out numbers and statistics and facts and glued to the specific case and not looking at the whole.
I'm not saying facts are bad or they don't have their place. But sometimes that place isn't in the midst of tears.

I know that when I am in the utmost monthly peak of my womanhood (UTERUUUUUUS!!!!), the most random things trigger me, and I may find myself in the midst of an overwhelming, uncontrollable emotional-vomit fit (note: the vomit is purely figurative . . . if I ever gag due to all the feels, I need a serious doctor). When said emotional-vomit-fit has me in its uber-feely, angry, sobbing clutches, my husband sure as CRAP better not hit me with facts (the poor man). I need him to listen and hold me and tell me he's sorry. Then we can dialogue about the facts--facts I may have known the whole time, but I was feeling wounded and I needed that wound to be HEARD.
 It's a lousy, miniscule example, but the reality remains: sometimes the fact to healing is simply listening.

When 50 people lost their lives in a nightclub, Orlando begged people to stop and hear us.
One city in pain from one incident.  And people listened.

We have people in every city around our country wounded from not one but SEVERAL incidents, so many unnoticed, invalidated.  They are hurting.
And we don't want to listen.

It smacked me right in the face and didn't let me go.
Oh, my heart broke.
Somebody, somebody listen.
Somebody feel something.
Somebody stop justifying with cold statistics and assumptions.
Just listen.
Just say, "I'm sorry" and mean it.
Understand that, maybe, as a white person, you may have a difference experience than your African American neighbor. That, yes, all lives matter and we are all human, but the way people perceive you is not the same.

So I posted this, and the debates went flying.

I wasn't trying to make a political statement.
I wasn't trying to ignore the incredible tragedy of the murder of brave, sacrificial public servants--men who put the lives of strangers above their own EVER DAY. It is heart-breaking.
I just . . . I was just tired of keeping quiet. I was tired of ignoring pain. I just wanted to say, "I see you. I am so sorry that you feel unseen."
People I love and respect posted numbers. One in particular lectured and corrected me over and over again, posting details on the case against Castile. She couldn't seem to understand that I was not talking just about the cases in the media--I was not saying that those cases were or were not justified. I was talking about just life.
I wasn't sure how to explain that I was just trying to say "I am sad with you." I know the numbers. I've read them over and over and over again. I know them. We can know them and still feel sorry.

Our country is in so much pain right now.

African Americans don't feel safe. They feel misunderstood, unseen, and unheard. They are wounded and angry at the injustice.
Cops don't feel safe--they people they swore to protect are shooting at them simply because they wear a uniform. They feel misunderstood, unseen, and unheard.  Why even put on the uniform if the media and, it seems, the world hates you just because you wear a badge.

There are good cops and bad cops. There are good and bad people of every race. That's a given.

People are in pain.
Do you know what helps pain? Maybe it doesn't make it go away--not at once--but it begins the healing process.

Hearing someone even if the feelings and memories they reveal bruise our egos, tarnish our view of reality. Even if we don't agree with those feelings.
Feeling something isn't bad--it's not wrong to feel even anger. Did you know that anger is basically an "emotional immune response" to your rights or person being violated? It's a GOOD thing. It's your actions in anger that are right or wrong.
Wounding someone in your anger only throws fuel on the flames, makes the cuts deeper.
Repressed, unfaced anger festers until it's poisoning you and everyone around you.

But listening to someone's pain and anger?
That can be a step in healing for everyone.

Listen to your neighbors, you friends, your relatives--regardless of occupation or race.
Just listen.
Remove your own justifications for a moment and hear their stories. There may be an entire world out there you had no idea existed.

And then mourn with them. Be upset at the injustices, at the name-calling, at the bullying.
Anyone of any age, economic bracket, sexual orientation, race, occupation, sex, anything has been wounded by those around them. Sometimes systemically by society.
Over and over and over again.

We are hurting. Listen to our tears. Listen to their tears. My gosh, listen to the tears of people you don't think should be crying. Yes, yes, they absolutely should.

Listening doesn't mean you give up your values. It doesn't mean you throw away your world view or belief system.
You know what you lose? Ignorance.
You know what you gain? Perspective. Mercy. Maybe even a friend or two. Your opinion on the matter might not change, but maybe, just maybe, the two of you have gained a little understanding.

You've been seen.
You've been heard.

Isn't that what we've all been crying for since the day we woke in this world?