This will just keep happening, truth be told ~Unless

The following was sent out by the head of an agency I work with that therapeutically services youth and families in the Boston area. It was so well said I asked permission to share it with you:

“There is a rhythm to crisis communications after tragedy, the public relations of grief. Organizations and political figures follow an unwritten rule of issuing statements in response to devastation. Some statements are poignant. Others vacillate among being trite, speculative, confrontational, and self serving. Nonetheless, relevance rules require comment in “real time.” Alas, there is no rule requiring real substance in response to this global pandemic of violence, fear, and hatred in which we are all mired.

Knowing the rule of relevance, I admit that I don’t know how to convey the devastation and missed opportunities represented by the killing s in Orlando in fewer than 140 characters. I don’t know how we–as a global community of humanity—can process this tragedy on top of all of the other mounting losses and slow deaths by neglect within the artificial construct of “real time.” So, I will settle for simply being real.

In the wake of the killings, injuries, and hate in Orlando and subsequent misappropriation of condemnation toward Islam…

In the wake of the shooting at the Burke High School…

In the wake of five more people injured in a mass shooting just yesterday in Delaware…

In the wake of Michael Brown and Ferguson…

In the wake of Cleveland…

In the wake of Paris…

In the wake of Brock Turner’s six-month sentence for rape, one of the few rapes that made it to our consciousness amidst the thousands reported this year…

In the wake of five dead on Saturday in New Mexico in a mass shooting that wasn’t covered in the national news because it was “only” domestic violence…

In the wake of the institutional, social, emotional, educational, and physical neglect of the children we serve…

In the wake of all this and more, my soul is fighting a battle between complacency and combustion. And, I don’t think that I’m alone. In this battle, complacency is fighting for self preservation amidst overwhelming devastation and hateful rhetoric. Complacency allows me to use self care to shield me from taking responsibility for the isolation of so many. On the other side of the battle is combustion. It is what can only be described as a visceral reaction of the constant collision of pain, anger, outrage, frustration, and fear that is reignited over and over again. It is the overwhelming desire to shake loose the national malaise and demand an answer to the question that repeats in my mind: How can we be so mesmerized by that which doesn’t matter in the midst of that which matters most—our lives?

When the dust of the battle settles—albeit momentarily—I try to discern answers to the few relevant questions in our national dialogue. The one that has struck me most after the killings in Orlando is the discussion around identifying and stopping “lone wolves.” This question is intriguing to me because the answer is so simple: There are no lone wolves if we are not alone. If we build connection with one another, genuine connection, beyond ourselves and our tribes, we will eliminate anomie. We will eliminate communal neglect. Unfortunately, the simple answer is not the easy answer. We have developed a culture of hyper individualism that rewards our individual achievements and belittles our connectivity. Even in the wake of disaster, so many of us look to account for the loss in monolithic terms. We constantly forget what binds us.
At our agency, we are often community builders as much as clinicians. We reach people who have lost connection and build authentic , supportive relationships. We invite more people into those relationships and share our gifts of empathy and reciprocity. But, if I am to be honest rather than self serving, I have to admit that, in many cases, our agency serves as a paid substitute for what is missing in our culture and communities. We provide incredibly important services that ideally function as temporary remediation for missing communal links. But far too often, we are it – we are everything – for the children and families we serve. And, that is too much. No one is everything. No service. No clinician. No politician. No label. No country. Too many of us are trying to be everything, trying to replace that which has been lost. It’s no wonder that we’re exhausted. It’s no wonder that I can’t seem to find 140 poignant characters in “real time” to describe our collective sense of loss. We need to expand our community.

So, with all of this in mind, I present you with my ode to the public relations rule of relevance via an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I proudly go with you. (102 characters) #Ubuntu”

As a person of color, it strikes me that our communal element is not so much missing as it was devalued and dismantled by dominate culture.  Until dominant culture is able to admit this, and rectify it without causing more harm, i.e. culture appropriation, things like this will continue to happen.  I appreciated the honesty above, especially as she wrote of complacency and combustion.

The struggle with combustion I am very familiar with.  There is this gnawing feeling that continues to grow, that is fed up with the seeming lack of action large enough to make the kind of impact that disrupts national status quo.  What needs to happen to shake things enough for dominant culture to see our lives as valuable? to move beyond politics, tweets, and catchphrases?

As far as the complacency: being an empath, it’s been hard for me NOT to see anyone through the filter of “there but for the grace of God go I.” The thing everyone fears and no one wants to admit is that anyone of us, given the right circumstances could be pushed to do things we think we would never do.  By the way, there is no test to really pre-screen for that.   When we can see ourselves, or those we love, in the faces of those who are hurting, and those inflicting the harm, being complacent is not an option.  Until we can see the humanity in all of us, even after we do/survive the unthinkable, these events will continue to happen.  In the wake of all this (which while now heightened by media coverage, has been taking place in it’s own form at alarming rates in our community for quite some time) it gives me great hope to hear and see that some folks, particularly folks who identify as white and recognize their power to act, are waking up to the fact that true community and compassion is what’s needed at this time. Not in word, but in deed; not only what looks like community and compassion, but what feels like community and compassion. Until we all feel loved and like we belong this will just keep happening.

This entry was published on June 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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