Y’all, I need to confess right up front that I am about to do some serious thinking aloud (well, thinking while writing…but you get it). My thoughts are scattered, because I’m trying to work through a frustration stewing in my heart, one that has threatened to bubble up and over today. So bear with me, forgive me if it doesn’t come out just right, and know that maybe…maybe even a month from now I won’t feel exactly this way. But today I do. And if any of the names, situations, etc. below are unknown to you–Google them. I assure you a plethora of information will be at the ready.
I did not know Sandra Bland. My only knowledge of her is through media coverage of her arrest and death. And while I doubt any of that coverage tells the whole, true story (because such is the nature of most media in these United States), I grieve her death. First, because she was a human being. Second, because it seems to have added an even deeper level of divide in the ongoing, mostly accusatory and uncivil “conversation” we’re having about racism in this country right now.
I did not know those four Marines gunned down in Chattanooga a couple of weeks ago. But I grieve their deaths, too. First, because they were human beings. Second, because they were men of deep service and commitment to their country. Third, because it is one more terrifying example of the love affair we Americans have with guns (and as I’ve said elsewhere, before you think I’m attacking all gun owners, I’m not–I do not care one whit about your deer rifles or your purely fun and social target practice–I do care, mightily, about Sig Sauers and the like, guns designed solely to kill people, being available to just about anyone who wants one). And I’m also puzzled by the lack of rallying around their deaths. There’s no hashtag for four dead Marines.
I believe, with every fiber of my being that Black lives matter. Because I believe with every fiber of my being that ALL lives matter. But that I can’t say that aloud without being accused of “not getting it,” or of simplifying or pushing aside the point is troubling to me.
I felt very visceral disgust rising in my stomach when I saw the news coverage of that dentist-hunter and his having murdered Zimbabwe’s beautiful Cecil the lion. With one bow and arrow and then one gun shot (a brutal number of hours later), this guy demolished a symbol of a nation and demonstrated a fierce disregard for life, not to mention the pride Cecil stood guard over and the havoc his death will wreak there. And already I’m seeing social media chatter about how we Americans, we get outraged about a lion, but we don’t care about the deaths of Sandra Bland or anyone else. “Misplaced priorities,” I saw someone call it.
Can I not grieve both Sandra Bland and Cecil? Even if on entirely different levels? Can I not feel as much pain for those four Marines and their families as I did for those nine lives snuffed out in Charleston in June? Can I express my doubts over the efficacy of the lines we draw in the sand with our insistence on broad generalizations and cause-naming without being accused of not paying attention or not thinking long and hard enough about it, or not having been given the right information?
This, I think, is the problem with hashtag causes (#causes). While they often draw much-needed attention to an issue or horror or problem, they also seem to just divide us even further as a nation. If you don’t identify with one, well, you must identify with another and that is not okay, sister.
I have been taught since the day of my birth that every life is sacred. Every. Life. Is. Sacred. And we live in a world…wait, no…we live in a country, that has forgotten this.
At every level, we far too often, collectively, leave the powerless, the voiceless, just as they are, and what’s even more unsettling to me is that oftentimes in our own good intention, our own paying attention to the powerless and voiceless, we become social bullies–“Believe what I say, join my cause…or you will be aligned with those who do not get it.”
My fingers hesitate, even as I type, sure someone is going to jump down my throat for this. Because this is the landscape we have created for ourselves. I’m right. You’re wrong. And if you’d just see it my way….
Y’all, there is evil and hate in this world to be sure. But not every cop is a dirty cop. And not every African-American kid in a hoodie is an addict or a dealer (in fact, in some places, his rich white peers are far more likely to be dealing the drugs). And when we can get behind as a nation the gut-wrenching awful truth that a lone gunman can shoot up a church and murder nine people in the process, but we don’t do the same for four Marines…what does that say about us? Or what about our insistence on the stats of those in poverty who end up in jail…but our blatant ignoring of the truth that a transgender man or woman is at the top of the charts in terms of being at risk for sexual violence in our nation?
I think it says we’ve gotten to a point where you have to choose your side, pick your cause, or get left out. Judged. Assumed to be something you might not be.
And it breaks my heart.
We have to find a way to talk to each other in this country. We have to. Because right now, all we’re doing is yelling…accusing…pointing fingers and casting blame…and tearing ourselves apart. Our insistence on either/or is going to leave us with neither if we don’t take care.
There are exceptions…I know this. But they are just that…exceptions.
And we have got to do better than that. Because the truth is? All the Sandra Blands, all the victims of gun violence, all the creations of God that make up our ecosystem, all those who are cast aside in these United States…ALL of them need us to do better.
Every. Life. Is. Sacred.
Try that for a #cause.