The United States of Emergency

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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.”

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(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.

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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)

Looking for silver linings during the pandemic

 

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image via https://www.flickr.com

Hello again, Dear Readers! I’ve been laying low during the past weeks of lockdown, like so many of you across the planet. One the one hand, it’s been difficult to find words to express all that I’ve been thinking and feeling during the past several weeks. On the other, I hardly know where to begin to articulate all the emotions, observations and insights that have flowed consistently through my soul.

Such paradoxical times we are living through right now! As Dickens once famously wrote, “the best of times, the worst of times” seems to sum it up in broad terms. The news cycle continues to find every detail and nuance of the pandemic to report on, to the near exclusion of everything else. Not a healthy emotional diet to subject myself to, so I’ve started limiting the amount of Covid 19 news I can stomach in a day.

Now that spring has arrived here in Colorado’s Front Range and May is nearly upon us, the energy has shifted. People are outside much more, despite the stay-at-home order still in place. The lovely park near my home was filled with folks exercising in imaginative ways as they enjoyed the balmy spring temperatures. Many of us are by now simply wishing to get on with our regular lives, go back to the routines and work/school life we all relied on, and have the nightmare of Covid 19 get behind us. Yet, we are still in the middle of the crisis that has touched everyone in one way or another.

Working as a literacy tutor this school year, I, along with tens of thousands of other educators around the US have had a steep learning curve on how to hold virtual classes with students. I am very lucky to be working at a school district that already had many resources in place for virtual learning. Through the support of my wonderful coach and the whole team at Colorado Reading Corps, some of us have been able to transition to online tutoring. It was an extraordinary and joyous moment when I first saw my students’ faces and heard their sweet voices again after a month of lockdown with no contact. One of several miracles I’ve experienced during these stressful days.

I am looking for silver linings now, no matter how small or subtle. Gifts of this time include: the quiet of my inner city neighborhood and closing of certain streets, giving pedestrians and bicyclists the luxury of space to walk and ride on normally congested roads; an appreciation of the vastly improved air quality in town and clear skies for stargazing at night; time to simply be—to meditate, pray, dream, nap, and relax; the general slowdown of human life on Earth, enabling our precious Mama Gaia to take a necessary breath and begin to heal from the constant destruction inflicted upon her by nearly 8 billion human souls.

A beautiful example of a silver lining hidden within the crisis comes from NPR this weekend. They ran a story about a migrant worker from Nepal, who with tens of thousands of others, ended up stuck at the Northern Indian border during the lockdown. Unable to return home, the migrants were sheltering at a school converted into a temporary camp. But, unlike many people who become stranded at borders, these migrant workers were lucky to have some selfless teachers there to help teach them literacy skills. One man, Pratap Singh Bora, now in his mid-50s, had never learned to write or read as a child or youth. He had never learned to write his own name. But during the past weeks at the border camp, a teacher taught him, along with other workers who were also illiterate, the Hindi alphabet and basics of reading. Now, for the first time in this man’s life, he is able to write his own name. (read the full story here)

A huge silver lining to the Covid 19 pandemic is that it is showing all of us, in high relief, the areas of our common society that are sorely in need of radical shifts. The problems, and their potential solutions, have been in plain sight for years. Yet, the pandemic and emergency measures that have been put into place have exposed vast inequalities in such an extreme way that it is impossible to continue to ignore them in the same ways as before. It has shown the public how vital having a social safety net is, just how vital essential service workers truly are, and how taken for granted they have been by the rest of us. It has shown even more starkly, how broken our government system is at the federal level. Eventually, the pandemic will lessen and life will return to its usual bustling pace. But, life will not, cannot, return to how it was before the coronavirus time. This pandemic is changing all of us in ways we can’t yet know.

Record these days in whatever ways you can, Dear Readers. These days, weeks and months of 2020 are epic and life-changing for humanity as a whole. Notice all the silver linings in your own lives and celebrate every single one. Although we cannot yet hug each other because of social distancing, we can still smile while acknowledging our common joys and sorrows.