The War Within Us
June 1st, 2020.
The city where I live has enacted a curfew of 8:00 pm due to riots and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
I am watching a live stream video of protestors downtown. They have chosen to be there after the curfew. Despite it. Maybe even because of it.
With tears streaming down my face, I see two very distinct sides. The protestors are chanting and carrying signs. The camera pans to the police, in full riot gear, walking slowly toward them. They have been warned that they are breaking curfew, and now there is a price to pay.
The video turns back to the protestors. It closes in on some of their faces. I catch glimpses of ( what I believe to be) anger, pain, betrayal, confusion, desperation, rage, heartbreak , injustice disillusionment, and deep hurt. If I could put words to what I imagine they were feeling, they would be:
I AM HERE
LISTEN TO ME
I BELONG TOO
Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is how they were feeling in that moment. In fact, my lily white self has no way of knowing what it is like for People of Color to walk in the world at all.
But what I do know is that I have experienced my own version of pain, rage, betrayal, confusion, desperation, heartbreak, injustice, disillusionment and deep hurt. I have begged and pleaded for people in my life to SEE ME, UNDERSTAND ME LISTEN TO ME, ACKNOWLEDGE ME in my own way. Frankly, I don’t know many people who have not.
To be really honest, I hear myself doing the dance of minimizing my own pain right now. It goes like this ” Geez Candace, are you really gonna try to compare the hurt that you have suffered with people dying? Don’t you think that’s pretty self- centered. Your pain is NOTHING compared to theirs”
Perhaps it is self centered and maybe my suffering does not begin to compare. Again, I don’t know.
But here is where I don’t think it serves me ( or anyone) to make this a contest about whose woes are greater. Doing so is just a distraction from tending to our own heartbreak. And what we will not turn and face, we project onto others.
If we don’t soften toward our own hurts, we can’t soften toward those of others. We can’t be compassionate and curious and want to understand the lived experience of another if we are not willing to look at our own. When we close down to our own wounds, we become apathetic and callous to the wounds of another.
When we don’t see our own humanity, we can not see the humanity of another. And if we don’t see the George Floyd’s of the world as human and NO DIFFERENT THAN US, we are not going to be very motivated to create change so that no humans have to needlessly suffer.
There is a war ” out there” for sure. It is dangerous and messy and there have already been far too many casualties.
I want to be so clear that this is also a war within us. We have fragmented parts of ourselves, broken splintered pieces of who we are demanding our attention. They are screaming
I AM HERE
LISEN TO ME
I BELONG TOO
Until we turn toward our own shame, guilt, suffering, rage, devastation and betrayal, we will continue to bleed out onto other people. We will blame, shame, criticize, judge, condemn, vilify, and demonize other people. And we will feel completely justified doing it. We will not be open to other people’s pain because seeing theirs bumps up too closely against ours and we will panic and run away. Or get angry at them and defend ourselves, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Hurt people hurt people.
There is so much about this country that is a shit show right now. I truly believe that one of the most powerful and profound things we can do to start to heal the external division is to tend to our own internal splintering. Of course, this is not all that’s called for right now- there are movements and risings that are critically important as well. And we will be better able to lend our voice to these if we chose when we are not at war with ourselves. This I know for sure.