To All Good People

by - Friday, June 05, 2020 ( Views)

I was hoping to publish a different post this week.

Sadly, certain events have transpired since I set that intention.

Events that are leading to heartbreaking news and images of unnecessary pain, mindless violence, and suffering to emerge from all around the US. Events that are once again shaking the foundation of the modern American civilization. Events that are forcing many of us, who have been until now watching from the sidelines, into action.

On May 25th, 2020 police officer Derek Chauvin, knelt on George Floyd’s – an unarmed black man – neck for almost nine minutes while Mr. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street.

Through all this torture, Mr. Floyd kept repeating, "I can't breathe", "Mama", and "Please".

Later that morning, Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room.

Widespread, and at times violent, protests have since spread across the United States.

As an outsider, I note, that this quintessential American moment has a few parallels in history.

(Indian Non-cooperation Movement of 1919)

The year was 1919, a little over hundred years ago. One hundred and one to be exact.

Stunned by the brutal massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, citizens of India had risen up behind Gandhi in this new radical experiment of civilian protest via ‘ahimsa’, or Non-violence. The resulting Non-cooperation movement shook the almighty British Empire at its core.

Three years into the movement, on the fateful evening of Feb 4th, 1922, thousands of protesters marched towards ‘Chauri Chaura’ market. The local police, in their attempt to frighten and disperse the crowd, started firing on the demonstrators, killing three civilians and wounding several others.

Furious with this police brutality, the mob then set the police station on fire, killing some 23 policemen – most of whom were Indians.

Gandhi was heartbroken.

He did not want this movement for ‘swaraj’ to turn into a contest of violence. He held himself accountable and at his trial, requested for the highest penalties for himself. For him, no future goal justified violence in the present time and as such he called off the movement.

Violence was not the answer. Violence is NEVER the answer.

But for a moment let’s keep the focus of the conversation on what’s at the heart of the matter.

Or as one of my neighbors quipped –

You keep saying “It’s horrible
that an unarmed black man was
killed, but riots and property
destruction has to stop”

Instead, try saying “It’s horrible
that property is being destroyed,
but killing of unarmed black men
has to stop”

You’re emphasizing
the wrong part.

So, let’s pay attention to the image that started this all,

(Murder of Mr. George Floyd)

and ask ourselves “How does this make me feel?”

Answering for myself – I feel enraged.

I feel enraged by the recurring and painful realization that, as the only sentient sapient species, we humans have learned to ignore everything beneath the superficial veneers and have internalized ‘truths’ that allowed this policeman – with full knowledge that he’s being watched and recorded – to treat a fellow human as less than.

I feel enraged at the entitlement of Mr. Floyd's country men and women who are trying very hard to move the conversation from the systemic oppression that led to Mr Floyd's death to their own narrow – and in this particular case, patently misplaced – personal pet peeves.

That rage wants me to scream at the top of my lungs and exhort everyone who is waiting on the sidelines, that the time of inaction is long past us!

Luckily, Delta Rae has a song, just for the moments like these. So I am going to play and listen to that instead.

(ALL GOOD PEOPLE – Delta Rae)*

"Come on and raise your voice
Above the raging seas
We can't hold our breath forever
When our brothers cannot breath"
"When our brothers cannot breath"

I know you want to help.

I also know that you are afraid.

Afraid of getting sick in this pandemic. Afraid of losing your livelihood in this uncertain economy. Afraid of getting caught in the violence. Afraid of being labeled a racist. Afraid to fuck-up while genuinely trying to help.

Afraid of your needs going unmet, afraid of your pain getting overshadowed, and afraid of your suffering getting ignored.

I know, because I have been there.

I see your fears and your desire to help, and I think there’s a simple way to attend them both. But it is not an easy way.

I am asking you to meditate upon the picture above and ask yourself – “Why am I not feeling enraged?

If you could just do that, I promise you, we’ll all be here soon.

(Bryan Denton for The New York Times)

Let’s hold up each other.

Cover Image: Chang W. Lee for The New York Times
*Thanks Cara for sharing the video.

(A version of this post is available on my Facebook page)

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