“In Louisville, Ky., a confrontation on a crowded street was partly defused when a woman stepped forward and offered a police officer in riot gear a hug. They embraced for nearly a minute. There were reports of clashes later in the night, however, and a local news outlet reported that at least one person had been fatally shot.”
After demonstrating peacefully for three hours in Seattle, police officers opened the downtown area to protesters. “Rashyla Levitt addressed the crowd through a megaphone, telling them the group had made history. “We marched for justice. We marched for peace,” she said. “We marched for each other. We marched for our streets.”
For justice. For peace. For each other. For our streets.
Also in Seattle, “Others weren’t ready to end the night. They approached a line of officers in riot gear, shouting and cursing. Some protesters — including Elijah Alter, 24 — rushed to intervene, pushing them away from the line of officers. ‘Because of our solidarity, we made them change their mind,’ he said. ‘Do not ruin it on a violent end.’”
Intervention. Solidarity. Change their mind.
From Atlanta, “The demonstrators stopped — hundreds of them, black and white — and sat. A self-appointed leader among them, an entrepreneur named John Wade, praised them for their nonviolence.”
For four days now, The New York Times has published a telling map. It shows the cities where there have been demonstrations. The first day, there were, perhaps, 15 cities; the second, 35; the third, 50. Today there were over 75. It made me glad. Yes, you read that right.
Protests don’t mushroom like this unless there’s a very good reason for them. These protests echo those we’ve seen all over the world in the past decade. They address, in a word, oppression. Oppression of all kinds — which needs addressing and redressing.
I have been shocked at the police responses. Tear gas, batons, Tasers, mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, even driving vehicles into crowds of living souls. How can any thinking person conclude that more violence is the answer to protests against violence, and especially targeted violence? It makes no sense.
A subtitle on a Times article this weekend read: “There are parallel plagues ravaging America: The coronavirus. And police killings of black men and women.”
Jia Starr Brown, pastor of First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis, said, “This is about collective widespread grief, and how great must the grief be that people would risk their livelihoods? Who we are as a people is greater than the risk to be out there. This is urgent. This isn’t about just our own individual lives as black people, but this is about our futures and children.”
Of protestors in North Carolina, “They were protesting in honor of a man, George Floyd, where something happened that shouldn’t have happened.”
Peaceful demonstrations all over this country were met with “bluster and vitriol” from our Terrorist-in-Chief. He blamed ‘antifa,’ and said they would be deemed a ‘terrorist organization.’ Antifa is not an organization, and that designation belongs only to international concerns.
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at NYU, said, “I am daily thinking about why and how a society unravels and what we can do to stop the process. The calamity these days is about more than Trump. He is just the malicious con man who lives to exploit our vulnerabilities.”
The Immoralist-in-Chief has both abdicated and vilified the United States’ traditional high ground, that of defender of human rights. “In many parts of the world, the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police in the United States is setting off protests against police brutality.”
Let’s be honest, Beloved. Brutality is a big part of our world these days. Consider North Korea, Syria, the Chinese Communist Party, ISIS, the Taliban.
Brutality is a commonality.
It’s something that I don’t like to think about it. So, mostly, I haven’t. But then, brutality has rarely been focused on me. Brutality is something I have witnessed from afar, disapproved of, prayed over, and let go simply because I wasn’t anywhere near it, or maybe better said, it wasn’t anywhere near me.
But now brutality is spreading all over the U.S. I can no longer ignore it. In fact, none of us can.
Roxane Gay is always impressive in her Opinion writing. Here is a sentence for the ages:
“[T]here is no context in which black lives matter.”
It brought me to my knees yesterday.
A protester in Columbia, South Carolina hefted this sign, “Respect my existence or expect my resistance.”
I can hear that sentence in my own voice, spoken with the absolute assurance of utter logic. Can you, Beloved? If you can’t, I suggest you repeat it again and again until you can.
Ms. Gay, “Black people share the truth of their lives, and white people treat those truths as intellectual exercises.”
No one’s value is an intellectual exercise. No one’s. Under cosmic law, we are all of equal and celestially precious value.
Ms. Gay again, “I know that the people who truly need to be moved are immovable. They don’t care about black lives. They don’t care about anyone’s lives. They won’t even wear masks to mitigate a virus for which there is no cure.”
She also, almost always, provides a suggestion for the beginning of a solution. “They put energy into being outraged about the name ‘Karen,’ as shorthand for entitled white women rather than doing the difficult, self-reflective work of examining their own prejudices.”
This is where we who are not persons of color are right now, Beloved. It is time to dig deep. Find the part of yourself that is innocent enough, curious enough, hopeful enough to be educable, and set out on an adventure of learning.
We must learn to hear of, and witness the normal of our companion humans.
Ms. Gay breaks my heart here. Open.
“Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism. We will live with the knowledge that a hashtag is not a vaccine for white supremacy. We live with the knowledge that, still, no one is coming to save us. The rest of the world yearns to get back to normal. For black people, normal is the very thing from which we yearn to be free.”
There is much talk about a new normal and what we might like it to look like. Could your contemplation of your own prejudices — the word means pre-judgments — open the path to a new normal? A normal that includes a world that works for everyone. Could you be that one, Beloved? I think any of us could.
We must acknowledge, both personally and globally, that our situation is based on our own choices, which in itself, is an admission of guilt.
Thomas Friedman was poignantly accurate in his piece yesterday. His column took us on a journey over the last 20 years of the choices, the decisions, that have led us to where we are today.
“We decided to remove buffers in the name of efficiency; we decided to let capitalism run wild and shrink our government’s capacities when we needed them most; we decided not to cooperate with one another in a pandemic; we decided to deforest the Amazon; we decided to invade pristine ecosystems and hunt their wildlife. Facebook decided not to restrict any of President Trump’s incendiary posts; Twitter did.”
His use of the verb decided was instructive. Etymologically, to decide or decision means to cut away, just as incision means to cut into. We cut away the buffers. We cut away governmental capacity. We cut away the value of the lives of others. We cut away the trees. We cut away the integrity of ecosystems. We cut away the lives of flora and fauna. We cut away our own logic in favor of the faux outrage fostered by the powers-that-be. We cut away our own futures for short-term gains in the present. We cut away that same future from our own civilization and our own children.
Mr. Friedman again, “That’s the uber lesson here: As the world gets more deeply intertwined, everyone’s behavior — the values that each of us bring to this interdependent world — matters more than ever. And, therefore, so does the ‘Golden Rule.’ It’s never been more important. Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you, because more people in more places in more ways on more days can now do unto you and you unto them like never before.”
As you can see, I am not the only one citing The Golden Rule these days. Even Opinion columnists are getting on the bandwagon. Mr. Friedman sums it up, “It was all about different choices, and different values, that humans and their leaders brought to bear at different times in our globalizing age — or didn’t.”
There is no longer an elephant in the room, Beloved. The systemic injustice and racism in our country is writ large for all of us to see. If you’ll allow me to stretch a metaphor, there’s a stampede, and there ought to be.
And still, some glimpses of hope peeked through the rage and the futility of despair.
“Not all protests have erupted in violence, with some police forces showing a more positive relationship with their communities. In Petersburg, Va., Chief Kenneth Miller and a handful of police officers appeared alongside protesters to show solidarity.”
“In Oklahoma City on Sunday, as a crowd of marchers seemed to grow tense, officers with the sheriff’s department’s tactical team took a knee in a pose popularized by the former N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The protesters cheered.”
A pastor I know heard from a far-off policewoman doubting her calling to law enforcement.
Letters to the Editor sowed seeds of lament along with seeds of cooperation. Mike Felker from Philadelphia, “In these difficult and divisive times we should be working together, not tearing ourselves apart.”
Tom Barnard writes from Shaker Heights, Ohio, “If we are going to expect behavioral changes by demonstrators, we need to engage in some serious behavior changes as a society.”
And then there was that hug. That one woman hugging a police officer for over a minute.
Protesters and police are easy, big-brush words, Beloved, but each one, each protester, each police officer, all of them, are human beings. Human beings, barring anomaly, have adrenal glands. Adrenal glands, when we human beings meet a tiger on a city sidewalk, shoot adrenaline through our systems. Adrenaline frees us of inhibition, taking us straight down to the level of baseline survival. Life or death.
That’s what these demonstrations are about. Life or death. And quality of life or death.
That woman who hugged the police officer — no one I know, but one I recognize within me — was afraid when she stepped forward and offered. That police officer met her eyes. Who knows what was there? Fear? Courage? Daring? Mockery? Something. And whatever that something was, the officer accepted her offer.
For a whole minute.
A hug will not solve the racial inequities, the systemic racism, or the police violence, I know that, but the humility of the educable just might. When we admit that we don’t know something, but that we’re willing to learn, we are humbled.
We must be to solve these worldwide issues, and address what Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a US-based energy think-tank, dubbed “global-weirding,” a slang term for climate change.
It is only when we are educable that a new normal is even a possibility. Dig deep, Beloved. Start right where you are, right now.
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.