Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Right Now

See my original post here.

These past few days, I've been riding the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter wave on social media.

Acknowledging our black brothers' and sisters' reality.
Advocating for love and compassion.
Actively speaking my truth.
Encouraging others to speak theirs. 

As a part of that well-intended surge of positive energy, this morning, I posted the image shown above - "Silence is not an option." - with my own caption:

Say what's on your mind. Say what's on your heart. Speak your truth. Quote beautiful quotes. Repost, retweet, repeat. Because now is an important time for our great national conversation on race, brotherhood, and peace among the people to move forward and we need to hear each voice. We need to hear your voice. So please. Speak up. 

I didn't think it was a bad post. Reading it back even now, I can see my good intentions and positive vibes.  

But in my very next scroll, I came across another post, headed up by the now-familiar solid black square and these words, posted by Jen Gotch, an Instagram influencer, business leader, and passionate advocate and author on mental health, especially her own life-long struggles with depression and bi-polar disorder.

I imagine for many it is clear that I wholeheartedly do not feel equipped in any way to navigate what is happening. Normally, when I feel overwhelmed and confused, I retreat. I think, I read, I listen and I hope to learn. I hope to gain certainty, so that I can participate with confidence and conviction. So that I can participate without inadvertently hurting others with my words or my ignorance. So I took some time over the past few days to do just that and quickly realized that the learning I would need to accomplish to get to a comfort level that would make me feel prepared to participate in any way would take more than a weekend, more than a month, it would take the rest of my life and even then it wouldn’t be enough. I was also prioritizing my need to not feel publicly shamed or embarrassed if I got any of it wrong. What I think now is that the act of retreating to gain a comfort level on a subject such as this is in and of itself a symptom of my privilege. I am so sorry if my absence on this issue hurt you or caused you to wonder for even a split second whether or not I cared. In an effort to get it right, I feel that got it wrong. So I am working to become a better ally and friend and I am prepared to participate with the best intentions no matter my level of discomfort. When I get it wrong again, because I know I inadvertently will (I might have even done so here), I will do so knowing that I got it wrong trying, which I realize now is more important than not trying at all.

I read the whole caption in once big gulp, and then I quickly flipped through the comments.

In the blink of an eye, my mindset shifted. 

Here's a woman who puts herself out into public space, who painstakingly details her daily pain and anguish - as well as her road maps for recovery - for others to learn from, who advocates for the hurting and broken people of this world every day of her life. 

But when she candidly reveals that she needs a bit of time to process the overwhelming trauma that all of us have felt in these last few days of police brutality, public protests, and racial tension, when she apologizes for taking that time to listen, to learn - to think, for goodness sake - probably half of her commenters chided her for her privilege, her lack of sensitivity to her black readers' reality, her apparent decision to waste her platform by not immediately taking a more articulate stand.

What in the name of love are we doing to one another?

With my brain engulfed in flames of passion, I fired off a comment of my own:

Jen, anyone who knows you knows your heart of compassion, of thoughtfulness, of love. Take the time you need to work through this issue in your own head and heart, and when you're ready to weigh in, I look forward to hearing what you have to say,.

In the meantime, look, I get it, people. In this time of great passion and desire to deepen connection with and show much-deserved respect to our black brothers and sisters, we want immediate action. Some of us are ready to jump in to that conversation fast, and feel a deep frustration with those who need to take more time to listen, to learn, to consider what to say. I get how to some, that may feel like betrayal. Like cowardice. Like racism. But I ask that you also consider this: more than ever we must recognize and take responsibility for the power of our words and use them carefully. And if we decide to judge and shame those who want more time to listen and learn before they speak, well, then we may have just missed the point of this moment altogether. 

And while my sudden burst of tiny typing mostly burned off the original rush of frustration, I'm still a bit upset with myself. 

These days - on top of countless other days just like them, stretching back over the entirety of my life and then centuries back through the history of our nation and the human race - are painful and difficult for everyone. Of course, the victims of this abuse and torment are our black brothers and sisters, and their anguish comes first. But the rest of us are witnesses to their terror, and our ever-expanding awareness of systemic racism and the social evils that these episodes reveal cause real pain and grief for all decent human beings. 

Grief takes time. Just because someone isn't ready to speak out today doesn't mean they will remain silent forever. And in any case, it's not my job, nor is it anyone else's job, to push someone to speak before they are ready.

Looking at it with fresh eyes, my morning post now strikes me as rude and disrespectful. I'm sorry for using my need for urgency to put pressure and implicit judgment on others.

So please, people, let me encourage all of us as I remind myself:

Let's remember what this moment and this movement are all about.

Let's offer our compassion and support to our black brothers and sisters.
Let's respect their journey and recognize their pain. 
Let's remember that until all are free, none of us are free.

Let's give to all people the space to listen, to learn, to grow.
Let's give each and every one of us unending streams of mercy and grace.
Let's love one another right now.

* * * * *

Get Together by the Youngbloods
Composed by Chet Power

Love is but a song we sing
Fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.

Some may come and some may go
He will surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment's sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand - listen
You hold the key to love and frear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command.

Come on, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.

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