We Must Start with Why; and, The Revelation of How
Opinion columnist Frank Bruni commented this morning, “The first time I saw President Trump referred to as “Cadet Bone Spurs” I laughed, the second time I smiled and the third time I cringed. It’s an apt slur, but it lumps him together with all the other politicians whose military huzzahs contradict their personal histories and whose insult to our men and women in uniform can be reduced to dodging the draft.”
David Marchese has a long interview with comedian and social commentator Jon Stewart in The Magazine. It’s called “Jon Stewart is Back to Weigh In;” full disclosure, he has a film coming out.
When he spear-headed The Daily Show, Jon Stewart could reliably make me laugh about things that I didn’t think were funny. That’s talent, but it’s more than that. It’s smart talent. Jon Stewart has always been smart. Now I think he’s crossed over into wisdom.
My definition of wisdom is an equation: Smart + Experience = Wisdom. I chose Wisdom as the quality that best represents the untranslatable word Tao for my intuitive version.
I’d like to share — and comment on — a few of Mr. Stewart’s observations.
Jon: “This is a cycle [police violence], and I feel that in some ways, the issue is that we’re addressing the wrong problem.”
That pricked up my ears. I agree. Over the past few months, it’s a point I’ve made repeatedly much to my own chagrin. I don’t like that we Americans are so easily distracted from what’s important.
This is not to say that police brutality is a distraction, but it is to say that I think it’s not the real problem.
Jon: “We continue to make this about the police — the how of it. … But the how isn’t as important as the why, which we never address.”
Simon Sinek is a much-beloved and oft-quoted business consultant. His TED Talk and his book, Start With Why, are cited in business circles worldwide.
There’s a good reason to start with why and not with how. The why of a thing — anything — is what sustains the thing. The how of a thing isn’t what sustains it. The how can change almost instantly, but the why is a constant. When the why of anything dries up, the thing itself dissolves.
Consider the role played by Lin-Manuel Miranda in The Return of Mary Poppins. We no longer have gas lantern-lighters. Why? Because we no longer have gas lanterns. Perhaps a singularly simple example, but you take my point.
Jon: “The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation.”
All organizations reflect the societies in which they arise. That’s not new information. The police, included. The reason the police behave the way they do is because “they’re enforcing segregation.”
When the desire for segregation goes away, policing will naturally change. This is why Mariame Kaba maintains that reform doesn’t work. Reform doesn’t touch the why.
Jon: “The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it.”
And why is there a “border between the two Americas”? “So that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it.” Sad, in fact awful, but true. Until camera-wielding cellphones became the norm, police brutality remained personal, and in the shadows. People talked about how they were personally affected by it. There were photographs of moments in which we whites saw the results of the racialized cruelty, but until there was video, we looked the other way.
Senator Cory Booker addressed this last week, “The history of policing in this country, and its treatment of African-Americans, is thoroughly documented for every generation of being so far short of the highest ideals of this country. It’s been an affront to the very dignity of the nation as a whole. You can’t be comfortable with this. And it’s our comfort with it that has allowed it to fester.”
It was too big, too much a part of policing. We said things like, it’s only the bad cops. They can’t all be like that. Someone has to keep the law and order.
Why? No, really. Why?
Why are law and order necessary? Because we — the majority powers-that-be — have kept an unfair, unspoken, unacknowledged prejudice alive and well by claiming that law and order are necessary.
Senator Booker, “Race is still the biggest indicator of whether or not you are going to live near a toxic site, breathe dirty air, drink dirty water. Racism is the most profound indicator of what kind of education you get, about how economically fragile your family might be, about whether you’re food insecure. These are issues that are combined to create this distraught present.”
Those three words make me want to weep they’re so accurate. This distraught present. Amen, Senator.
Here’s what Jon thinks: “But I still believe that the root of this problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it, because we’ve outsourced our accountability to the police.”
The police, like the dogs that the Not-So-Big-Stick-in-Chief threatened, have become instruments of our oppression. I don’t cite the oppression of those who have suffered it; I cite the oppression of those who have wielded it.
And now the police are being blamed. To be sure, there are individual police officers who should be blamed, who do take out their inappropriate aggression on our black and brown compatriots.
“In 2006, Cariol Horne, a black Buffalo police officer, intervened when a white officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, had a black suspect, David Mack, in a chokehold. Horne jumped on Kwiatkowski’s back to prevent him from harming Mack. In 2008, she was fired from the Buffalo Police Department for her intervention in that case and lost her pension.” Derek Chauvin won’t lose his $50,000 a year no matter the outcome of his murder trial.
The Tao has an explanation for this. Pseudo-Chapter 38 in my Tao for Now is called “Cling Loosely.” Part of it reads:
When the practice of Wisdom disappears, goodness appears.
When goodness disappears, morality appears.
When morality disappears, law appears.
When law disappears, ritual appears.
Rite becomes rote with the shift of one vowel.
Thus, the seeding of chaos.
Chaos is where we are now, Beloved, perhaps on the verge of it, but chaos nonetheless.
California governor Gavin Newsom said, “I recognize foundationally and fundamentally that so often people in my position are inadequate to the moment. So often we try to meet the moment with rhetoric. … Program-passing is not problem-solving. You’ve got to change hearts, minds. You’ve got to change culture, not just laws.”
Well, Mr. Bruni might have an explanation of why that’s so hard at this moment in this country at this time, “There’s no reverence in Trump, only convenience and expedience.”
Convenience and expedience have their place, but not now, not ever in culture change.
I agree with Jon Stewart, “And if we don’t address the why of that treatment [the violence], the how is just window dressing.”
Senator Booker is addressing it. “We are only in the foothills of the mountain we have to climb and the work that we have to do. And the question ultimately is, How will systems from health care to education to criminal justice — the systems that have so disparately impacted Americans along race — how will they actually fundamentally change?”
There is reason for hope, Beloved. Or, I think there is. “But perhaps the most striking actions, and the most inspirational, have been taken by those with the least official power. Early protests were orchestrated with sophistication by the Black Lives Matter movement leaders, but the teenagers soon took over.
“Simone Jacques, a high school junior, started one of San Francisco’s largest demonstrations through an Instagram group. ‘We are here to acknowledge the black people who built this country against their will,’ she told a crowd of thousands. ‘We call on your spirits to protect us and propel us through this march and the beginning of this revolution.’”
I felt the reverence, that which is so lacking in the disgusting behaviors and words we are forced to witness from The White House, in Simone’s appeal to the ancestors. Do you?
My favorite southern essayist, Margaret Renkl wrote, “These Kids Are Done Waiting for Change.” “In less than a week, six Nashville teenagers created a march that drew 10,000 peaceful protesters and gave hope to a whole city.”
“In real life, Nya Collins, Jade Fuller, Kennedy Green, Emma Rose Smith, Mikayla Smith and Zee Thomas had never met as group when they came together on Twitter to organize a youth march against police violence. On June 4, five days later, the founding members of Teens for Equality — as the young women, ages 14 to 16, call their organization — were leading a march of protesters some 10,000 strong, according to police estimates.”
Now, you and I know that police estimates of those who protest are notoriously under-reported, don’t we?
“These young people are passionate about their causes and unwavering in their commitment to change. The world they have inherited is deeply troubled and desperately flawed, and they see with clear eyes both the errors of earlier generations and the hope of their own. Their power lies in the undeniable moral authority of youth: They did not cause the mess they have inherited, but they are rolling up their sleeves to clean it up.”
Jon Stewart again, “The enemy is noise. The goal is clarity.”
Our media are not about clarity, are they? They’re about noise.
Jon: “But we have an exceptionalism that we have taken for granted, and we get lost in the symbolism of who we are rather than the reality. … We’re basically having giant public fights about symbolism, while the reality of our situation goes unexamined.”
These young people are rolling up their sleeves to do something about what the entrenched powers cannot see how to change. There’s a reason we can’t see it. I’m willing to bet that if we were to scan the brain of a 60 year old and the brain of a 16 year old, we’d see two completely different mechanisms that go by the same word: brain.
We who are 60 and over, and I count myself among that crowd, have the schism Jon Stewart talks about wired into our brains. It might be denoted simply as Divide-and-Conquer Brain.
Those who are 16, not only do not have the schism wired into their brains — they cannot even see the schism in their brains because it isn’t there. These brains were raised on Connection, not Division. It might be denoted simply as Network Brain.
Jon Stewart wrapped the interview, “But our biggest problem as humans is ignorance, not malevolence. Ignorance is an entirely curable disease.”
“How?” asked Mr. Marchese.
“Information and work. You need to talk to people. Ignorance is often cured by experience, by spending time with what you don’t understand. But I honestly don’t know. Well, you know what? I do know: In the same way that Trump’s recklessness is born out of experience, so is my optimism, because good people outweigh [expletive] people. By a long shot.”
There is a good book in which it is claimed, “And a little child shall lead them.” I think our teenagers have the right idea. We who by default condoned the old regime need to be asking a long overdue question, Beloved.
“Dear ones, how can we help you change it for the better?”
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.