Our Summer of Dissonance

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary online, dissonance is defined as:

1 a: lack of agreement, the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believe; especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs;
b: an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement; “the mingling of bitter comedy and stark tragedy produces sharp dissonances”— F. B. Millett

2: a mingling of sounds that strike the ear harshly : a mingling of discordant sounds; especially, music : a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord.

Synonyms of dissonance include: conflict, disaccord, discord, discordance, discordancy, disharmony, dissension (also dissention), dissent, dissidence, disunion, disunity, division, friction, infighting, inharmony, schism, strife, variance, war, warfare.
(Citation: “Dissonance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissonance. )

As any skimming of news websites clearly shows, Dissonance is now the buzzword of our current times. Those of us living in the United States are immersed in our collective dissonance 24/7, with no relief save for turning off all devices, airplane mode or taking an off-grid getaway.

Case in point: President Trump travelled to Mount Rushmore National Monument on Friday, July 3, to hold a political rally for the Independence Day weekend. I guess one could argue it was a savvy marketing campaign—the backdrop for his barely veiled, White Supremist propaganda was the faces of four American presidents carved into the granite rocks of the monument. The link to the NYTimes article is here.

As America’s POTUS denounced “dangerous left-wing fascists” who are defacing “national heroes” by toppling many statues of White Supremists (including confederate heroes) across the country, he conveniently neglected to mention that the Coronavirus infection rate increased by 90% over the past couple of weeks. Dissonance. As the Trump administration continues its deliberate denial, fact twisting and blatant lying about the pandemic’s effects on all aspects of American life, the tones and cadences of dissonance reverberate ever louder throughout our collective souls.

Then there’s America’s national shame about racism that continues to lay bare the core wound of its founding and accumulation of wealth through the slavery of and violence against Black people. Since the George Floyd murder by police at the end of May, a tidal wave of protests, opinion pieces, journalists, political voices, writers, and scholars have clamored to amplify this collective moment of dissonance in the hopes that finally, finally, White people will get it. Systemic racism is everyone’s problem, perpetuated by White silence and complacency to the status quo. One of these voices, Marvin Blakely, a civil trial lawyer, in this weekend’s NYTimes opinion section, writes,

And how could I calmly describe how people of color are penalized for not knowing and adhering to the culture of white America, while no value is placed on our culture, which they so freely appropriate for profit? How do I help these friends understand that the solution to the race problem lies with them? Ultimately a conversation is just more talk. What about taking action, no matter how small?

If they truly wanted to be of help and have meaningful conversations, with me or anyone else, I decided to tell them, they should begin by acknowledging that the problem lies in the hearts and minds of them, their brothers, sisters, parents, and in-laws.

I told them that a conversation in which you acknowledged years of undeniable oppression and then suggested Black people “move on” was as offensive as taking no action and remaining silently complicit. After the acknowledgment, I would ask that they educate themselves (and others) and, before engaging in those conversations that white America suddenly finds necessary, listen. After completing Steps 1, 2 and 3, you are ready not just to talk, but to act in a manner consistent with our mutual humanity.

Dissonance. Discord. Disharmony. Dissolution. Disrespect. Disregard. Disease. Dis. The prefix is defined as: negation, reversal. It is undeniable to the vast majority of us by now that we are smack in the middle of a collective Dark Night of the Soul. Our collective soul is being forced to face its shadow. In Jungian terms, the shadow of the soul is made up of all the unresolved, denied, repressed, hidden and shamed elements of our ego. Until the shadow is exposed to the light of acknowledgment, clearly seen and somehow forgiven, it remains as a force of negation, a receptacle of humanity’s sewage. We are in the midst of shining the strongest, most piercing light yet on our collective, core wound and its devastating consequences on entire sections of the human race. This is the most important work we must collectively do now. No matter how frustrating, horrifying, nauseating, disgusting, or dirty, facing our collective shadow is imperative for healing the unspeakable wound we must all heal.

Dear Readers, the moment we are living through now defies description. Though many (including me) attempt to describe what we are facing, ultimately we are rendered speechless. The dissonance runs so deeply through the core of our humanity, that it is tearing us apart, quite literally. What can we do, how can we hold the dissonance without breaking into a million pieces?

One suggestion is to simply surrender and let the pain of our collective wound open you. You may experience what feels like dying, a pressure so tremendous that it is unbearable. Yet, if you are willing to let the forces of dissonance break you open, what you find within the heart of that pain will astound you. Rumi once wrote of a field that exists beyond the pain of the world. And that field absolutely exists, waiting eternally for anyone curious and brave enough to find it. It is a place of utter calm, of peace beyond human understanding, and of constant love. It is not far from each one. Just as the composer understands the supreme importance of silence within a symphony, we too must learn to understand the importance of finding the depth of wisdom within the heart of pain. Dissonance leads to eventual harmony when one is willing to do the work.

The United States of Emergency

I-cant-breathe
Black America is screaming for justice now. (images via The New York Times)

The United States has ignited. The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis by a white police officer was the match that lit the tinderbox of racial tension. Floyd’s death is the latest in a long line of atrocities committed against black people in America at the hands of police. America is in a state of emergency as The People are in the streets battling with police from coast to coast.

 

Former President Barak Obama was quoted in today’s NYTimes. “This is something that’s got to change,” Mr. Obama said, arguing the challenges of the last few weeks were the result of structural problems in the country. “They’re the result of a long history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and institutionalized racism that too often have been the plague of this original sin of our society.”

stop-killing-us
(images via The New York Times)

Thomas Friedman, an opinion columnist for The NYTimes, laments,

What to do? Where can we find the leadership needed to calm this situation, deal with its underlying causes and at least get us through the 2020 election?

Three years ago, I might have hoped that Senate Republicans would step in and restrain Trump. But now we all know better. The Senate Republican caucus today is nothing but a political brothel. Mitch McConnell is the madame. And McConnell and his caucus rent themselves out by the night to whomever will energize the Republican base to keep them in power and secure the economic benefits for their wealthiest donors.  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/ 

A similar tone is found in this opinion piece from The Times’ Editorial Board:

The chaos unleashed by the death of Mr. Floyd defies simple prescriptions; it is a result of too many underlying conditions. Authorities are facing a stern test: It can be all but impossible to police the boundaries of legitimate protest, particularly on the ground. And it must be painful for many police officers who put their lives on the line to hear themselves criticized by their fellow citizens.

Yet the testimony of local journalism, eyewitnesses and videos posted online make clear that too many police officers have little interest in protecting legitimate protest. While some officers have joined protests or knelt in solidarity, others, often in the same cities, have acted savagely, inciting or exacerbating violence.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/opinion/george-floyd-protests-first-amendment

America is on fire with anger, rage and anguish. Two months of being locked down, confined to our homes (if one is fortunate enough to have one) combined with the loss of employment, income and freedom to move about freely, created the conditions for the powder keg that exploded with the murder of George Floyd by the police. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets in more than 140 cities across the country, carrying protest signs, chanting “I can’t breathe,” raising their fists in solidarity and kneeling to remind the authorities of the horrific abuse of power that police have used on black citizens for far too long. Yes, Black Lives Matter. Yes, White Privilege is real. The magnitude of the protests and riots cannot be overstated. This is the Tsunami of Change, right now. We can choose to collectively pivot towards a just and fair society as the old paradigm of control by force breaks apart and goes up in flames.

black power_sky
Black Lives Matter. (images via The New York Times)

Dear Readers, some of you won’t agree with me, but the truth is that no matter where you live in this world, systems of institutionalized oppression have been visited upon your people, whether currently or in the distant past. No one on Earth has been immune from the control mechanisms put in place by those who profit from human suffering. The current crisis in the United States has been a long time in the making. Now that it is upon us,  we can no longer ignore it or be complicit in this struggle. It is ALL of our responsibility to participate in this awesome moment of Revolution. The alarms are screaming everywhere for our collective awakening and it is up to each person to shine the spotlight first within their own heart and see what is there. No matter how painful, how wounded, how dark or how hideous what may be found, it is finally time to really see it, acknowledge it, and then begin the difficult work of forgiving it. Forgiveness is not denial. Forgiving oneself first is the key to being able to change, and then to reconciliation with all others. It is a courageous process and it takes time. The past couple of weeks are showing Americans that the time for fighting violence with yet more violence is over. We MUST go beyond fear of the Other. There is no other.

The NYTimes put up this incredible photo essay showing visceral images from across the United States over the past ten days. I hope you will take the time to gaze at this moment, and ponder what it means to you. Photo Essay-George Floyd protests

Here is a link to an essay posted by Barack Obama in Medium. Many of us are grateful for his calm wisdom right now. https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067

reconciliation is possible
Peace and justice go hand in hand when we open our hearts and realize the truth of who we are. (images via The New York Times)

It’s finally time for big, structural change

three_richest_people-graphic
image via commondreams.org

Dear Readers, usually I am careful on this blog to avoid sounding strident or provocative to the point where some of you won’t bother to read it. But today I feel that I must speak out about the absolute urgency of our common crisis moment here in America.

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the American economy during the past six weeks. Congress has passed several unprecedented economic recovery bills, which they touted as helping everyday Americans and especially small businesses to get through the emergency intact. Yet, it is coming out into the public that a large percentage of the billions of dollars designed to help small businesses and their employees, is instead (once again) lining the pockets of corporations and billionaires who are siphoning off the money from the ones who cannot survive without it. Read the Forbes magazine article  here.

“We’re not going to be able to check all the loans before they go out the door because there’s over 26,000 of these loans, but before we forgive these loans, we’ll check every single one over $2 million,” Mnuchin pledged on Tuesday. “I encourage everybody to look at this and pay back these loans now so we can recycle the money if you made a mistake.”

More than 220 public companies have applied for at least $870 million in small business loans, according to data analytics firm FactSquared.

Under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, The Paycheck Protection Program was originally allocated $349 billion for emergency small business loans, but that funding was quickly exhausted amid overwhelming demand that has often caused glitches in the system. Despite weeks of controversy around the PPP, another $310 billion was injected into the program thanks to the latest $484 billion coronavirus relief bill passed last week. “–Forbes magazine

Among ALL of the immense lessons Covid-19 has been teaching us, this particular one is definitely in the top 3 for people to pay attention to. We watched as giant corporations consolidated their wealth during the 2008 Great Recession. We saw predatory companies buy up smaller ones, including many banks. During the past 12 years, wealth consolidation by the wealthiest corporations and CEOs has gone from terrible to inconceivable. It is inconceivable that literally a handful of humans’ net worth is more than well over half of the population of the United States combined. Let that sink in for a moment.

Top wealthy people US-Forbes-2019

Top wealthy people 2-US-Forbes-2019
www.forbes.com/forbes-400

Further reading:  https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/04/27/no-were-not-all-together-how-super-rich-are-cheating-america

Watching the news spectacle coming from Washington DC each day during the pandemic, many of us feel by turns angry, frustrated, sad, devastated, or perhaps even resigned to the ineptness and absurdity we are hearing from the POTUS and his administration. One author from Ireland commented about it this way (from Commondreams.org) :

The gifted Fintan O’Toole offers a fresh, brilliant, devastating perspective on a time when the sense of America as a great country “has all but evaporated.” Now the epicenter of a pandemic, he describes a nation “locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity,” he writes. “It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively, often in the recurring horror show of briefings in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.” 

The question most of us wonder is, Where do we go from here? When will the citizens finally awaken out of the nightmare of what life in America has become for the majority of us? Isn’t it way beyond time to open our eyes and squarely face the obscenity of unbridled greed and power-mongering being flaunted right before our faces? And then say:  NO MORE. EVER AGAIN. The hundreds of millions of people who continue to suffer due to monstrous inequity by the power elite deserve better. The Covid-19 pandemic is showing us our collective neuroses like never before.  May we each have the deep courage and strength to finally, creatively, and loudly point it out, protest, petition our members of congress, and most importantly, to vote for real, structural change to the status quo. The criminals must be permanently stopped, and the time is NOW.