Cry Us An Ocean; and, Questions at the Crossroads
New York Times Contributing Opinion writer Thomas B. Edsall asks this morning “How Much Is America Changing?” Consider these factors. “America is at a racial and political crossroads. Protests over the past two weeks in response to an interrelated set of issues and events — the killing of George Floyd, police brutality, the Covid pandemic, a nation in lockdown, joblessness, a devastated economy and a presidential election.”
Each of these issues asks an urgent question at this moment. Given the human penchant for reductionism and simplification, it’s no wonder a lot of us haven’t even been asking the questions. The subtext might be:
It’s too big to change.
We must remember that this was the mantra when the truth began to dawn on us collectively about the coronavirus. Healthcare is too big to change. The economy is too big to change. School is too big to change. Office culture is too big to change.
All those things, Beloved, changed — and practically overnight.
Because there was a threat, a tiny pathogen, that had the potential to kill all of us.
Healthcare met the challenge of Covid-19.
The economy shut down as we locked down.
School from K-College moved to Zoom.
Office workers worked from home.
If you’ll look back, I believe you’ll see what I’m seeing which explains the power and the potential that makes Farhad Manjoo say “Black Lives Matter is Winning.” It is, and thanks be to God Almighty, it is.
He starts, “It’s wondrous, isn’t it, how the people just keep coming out? Day after day, night after night, in dozens of cities, braving a deadly virus and brutal retaliation, they continue to pack the streets in uncountable numbers, demanding equality and justice — and, finally, prompting what feels like real change.
“How did this happen? How did Black Lives Matter, a hashtag-powered movement that has been building for years, bring America to what looks like a turning point?”
A turning point, or as Billy Porter’s impassioned Message to America has it, a tipping point. [Warning: Billy uses some colorful language, and his heart is so in his words that I recommend you have a handkerchief to hand.] No matter which, turning or tipping, the obscene video of George Floyd’s murder by an officer sworn to uphold the law, has ignited the disparate enclaves of outrage into a worldwide NO.
Mr. Manjoo explains. “I have a theory: The protests exploded in scale and intensity because the police seemed to go out of their way to illustrate exactly the arguments that Black Lives Matter has been raising online since 2013. For the last two weeks, the police reaction to the movement has been so unhinged, and so well documented, that it couldn’t help but feed support for the protests. American public opinion may have tipped in favor of Black Lives Matter for good.”
I can only hope, and I’d like to add my theory for your consideration. I agree with Mr. Manjoo and I think there’s another reason as well. On the levels of both physics and metaphysics, huge change, like all those things that were too big to change and did, releases huge energy. The Big Bang, anyone?
The two months of adjusting to the pathogen released an ocean of potential energy. The video of the cruel and usual police behavior was the match to the powder keg of potential that was simply awaiting a catalyst.
God help us all, but as I said yesterday, Mr. Floyd’s prayer to touch the world has been answered although certainly not in the way he had planned.
Mr. Manjoo again, “The evidence of police brutality has become too widespread even for elected officials to ignore. They can no longer easily coddle police unions in exchange for political support; now ignoring police misconduct will become a political liability, and perhaps something will change.”
Mara Gay, a member of the Times Editorial Board quoted “[New York] Assemblyman Charles Barron [who] spoke for many of the protesters when he said repealing 50-a was far from enough, and he called for ‘radical, systemic change.’ I don’t have no more patience for gradual reform,’ he said.”
Radical, systemic change sounds so good, feels so possible, is morally, ethically, and spiritually so just plain the right thing. Gradual reform is the dangerous territory tempting us as always.
Why do officials recommend gradual reform?
It’s too big to change.
Racism is too big to change. Police culture is too big to change. Affordable housing is too big to change. Biased healthcare is too big to change. Even finally making the District of Columbia a state is too big to change.
I started to think about how I imagine rivers are created. Actual rivers. I live within walking distance of the mighty Hudson River. Its influence over the Hudson River Valley is legion. Weather of all kinds. Pollution of all kinds.
I imagine that rivers do not arise full-blown in place like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. They can’t, not if Mother Nature is true to her patterns of change. Mountains don’t push up toward the sky in toto either, they grow.
So there have been creeks, rills, dribbles, tiny puddles, miniature falls of calls for this radical change our country needs for a long, long time. Gradual reform has cleared some of the debris, the silt, the sand, the pollution from these small presences of waters. Eventually, when there are enough of them, the creeks et al, begin slowly to wear away the ground that separates them, and they start to flow — and grow — together turning, over time, into tributaries, riverlets, if you will. Tributaries go through the same process as creeks and friends, eventually meeting and growing into the massive rivers we see today.
I believe the United States has reached the tributary stage of river creation.
I wakened this morning, as I often do, hearing a song in my head. This was an early one of Barbra Streisand’s called “Cry Me A River.” She’s singing about crying a river over a former lover.
In a trice, I was a breath away from tears. One inhale. Why? Because there is an ocean to cross before the river of social protest can sustain the demand for radical, systemic change, Beloved. It is an ocean that must be cried to be dried.
We need collectively to ‘cry us an ocean.’ An ocean of missed opportunities, an ocean of rage, an ocean of fear, and ocean of longing, an ocean of grief at how long we privileged white people have allowed there to be a white America and a black America and a brown America, and any other America other than America the Beautiful, the home of all Americans.
If we do not look, each one of us, at our own parts of the oppression, if we do not see them and grieve them, we will be attempting to form scabs and then scar tissue over fatal infection. We see where the pathogen of white supremacy has taken us, don’t we?
Opinion columnist Jennifer Senior asked this week “Is This The Trump Tipping Point?” “Trump is flailing like an overturned turtle. A historic health crisis, an economic crisis and a social crisis all at once — it’s far too much for a reality TV star to handle, no more manageable than it’d be for him to land an airplane. What this moment may have revealed, ironically enough, is that only in a time of stability and outrageous decadence could the United States have had the luxury of picking such a dark and divisive candidate with the intellectual firepower of a water gun. When Trump asked voters ‘What have you got to lose?’ most never dreamed that the answer could be: Everything.”
Those are the real stakes, Beloved. We have everything to lose. Everything.
Dr. Hahrie Han asked this morning “What Happened When the Minneapolis Police Lost Legitimacy?” It’s a good question, and in the answer, there is a solution to this crossroads moment.
“Even in the chaos of the past two weeks, ordinary people took control of their own safety and we learned that the safest system is one grounded in and accountable to an organized community.”
“City leaders recognized the importance of the community response. The City Council president, Lisa Bender, wrote on Twitter that ‘we see how community members are working to keep each other safe.’ Mr. Ellison wrote, ‘Every night it blows me away how successful these civilian patrols have been.’”
For some years, I was the Chief Culture Officer of a holistic healthcare organization; I was also the head of the Spiritual & Energy Medicine Departments. A young physician on the staff asked to see me one day, and the moment she sat down in my office, she burst into tears. “I’ll never be a good physician,” she wailed.
I’m sure you can imagine it took a while, but eventually what arose was that she was attempting to practice medicine ‘by the book,’ namely based on what she’d learned so recently in medical school, but bodies weren’t showing up the way she’d learned them. “What shall I do?!?”
I thought long and hard before I said to her, “Listen to your patients. They’ll tell you what they need if you’ll listen and really hear them.” It wasn’t long before everything turned around for her.
Dr. Han again, “This work was possible only because organizers could build on years of organizing that connected people in relationship and built the skills they needed to mobilize a rapid response. As Ms. Fairbanks said: ‘No single person or organization made this happen. It took years of people, especially black women, doing the groundwork of building trust and accountability. It takes years of conversations about what it means to be community. That is what gave us the opportunity to align when we needed to.’”
This is what is required of this crossroads moment. We must listen, of course, to the national protests, to the outrage, to the hurt, to the rage. But then we must grieve white and black and brown and all the rest of the rainbow citizens of these United States of America.
Then as we grieve the ‘too big to change’ problem, we must listen at home in our own communities to what those who have been oppressed say they need, and do that, not what anyone else thinks they need. We must do the work of ‘building trust and accountability’ and have those ‘conversations about what it means to be community.’
“Alondra Cano, a member of the [Minneapolis] City Council who leads its public safety committee, captured it best when she said to a reporter, ‘Protesting is good and needed,’ but ‘that third space is needed where we are committed to each other.’”
Rivers and mountains are not top-down structures, Beloved. They arise and gain power from the bottom-up. Radical, systemic change from the bottom-up is the only path toward making, as Billy Porter lays it down, a change for good. It’s about time.
Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com
© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.