Human antipathy and conflict are as old as the human race. However, it feels like we have entered a new era in America where we are increasingly unable or unwilling to see the humanity in one another. In the last month, we have seen mass murder in an Orlando night club, more African American men shot and killed, and now the killing of police officers in Dallas. Every death brings tears and heartache, regardless of the circumstances behind the killings. Or at least there should be tears and heartache. Always.
In addition to the tragedies themselves, it seems as though our ability to cope and to console and to empathize and to understand has collapsed under the sheer stress of events. It’s as if we’ve been driving on icy roads and now have lost control of the car entirely. We don’t know what will happen next but we don’t expect a good outcome.
Humans need to emote, grieve, communicate and come together in order to deal with tragedy but it seems as though our capacity for doing these things has become threadbare. Thus, we no longer speak, we shout. We no longer discuss, we argue. We no longer seek truth, we immediately conclude according to out preexisting biases. In short, we don’t listen to one another. We don’t try to understand one another. We are afraid of those who don’t think like us and look like us.
Do I really know what it is like to be Black in America? No, and I can’t. But I can try to listen to black voices and try to understand. That’s a start. Do I know what it’s like to wear a badge and put my life at risk every day I go to work? No. But I might want to stop and consider that police officers and their families are like anyone else. They would like to return home to their loved ones each day. Do I grieve for LGBT folks who are gunned down because they are LGBT the same as I would if they weren’t? I should. Do I rush to politicize tragedies and empower my anger against the first villains who come to mind? I shouldn’t.
All of these tragedies have taken place against a backdrop of what seems to be the most contentious and divisive presidential election in my lifetime and I don’t know where we are headed with any of this. But I think I can start by grieving. And then listening. And praying. And listening some more and talking calmly and thoughtfully. I need to be trying to see and understand the humanity in all of us.
Copyright July 9, 2016