But why

This actually started as a comment to my good friend, Hannah’s, latest post (check out her blog, her photographs are beautiful and incredibly interesting), but as I kept typing, I figured I’d just post it here instead of leaving an essay in her comments. Hannah is French. She lives in Paris, although she’s currently in the States. My heart breaks for her, and I am thankful she is safe.

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Here’s what I was starting to write to her (and it takes off from there, as you’ll see):

I can feel your pain. My heart hurts in solidarity for you, for Paris, for Beirut, for everyone. I hear what you’re saying, absolutely. I immediately experienced empathy when I heard about Paris. I immediately thought of you. I imagined my city, my home, New York, being attacked again. I took the train down to Times Square later that day for work and felt my chest tighten with anxiety. We could easily have been those victims. I sit outside on balconies eating dinner. I have gone to clubs and concerts. I didn’t hear about the attack on Beirut until later that same day, (which is an issue that should be addressed). But do we or do we not put a filter over our Facebook profile pictures – and which one? Do we not post as much about Paris, but more about Beirut? Why didn’t I hear about Kenyan University where 147 students were massacred back in April? Am I a bad person? How can I put the French flag and the Lebanon flag and the Kenyan flag all on my social media while using non-religious but thoughtful hashtags so everyone knows I am good and mean well? How do we stay politically correct – how can we accurately report war and suffering – what is the right thing to do now against ISIS – what about – if we just – what about – this is wrong – this is right – what about –

I have no fucking idea. So I’ve been relatively staying silent, because for me, at this point, right now, none of this matters. I know there are a lot of complex political issues at stake now, and yes, discussion needs to happen, but we seem to be on the brink of a global war. Everyone is shouting, everyone is in pain. The core truth is that people have died, and I am sad. For all of them.

Pain is pain. No one wins when people try to compare suffering, and it is a futile, misguided effort. When in times of immense suffering, we want our pain justified, our grief validated, and our most natural reactions when our souls are in danger is to inflate the ego, retaliate, and look for someone to blame. We need a Why for our pain. Trust me, I do this all the time. Grief is an incredibly, incredibly isolating and lonely experience, not to mention extremely frightening, to explore the depths of pain in our psyche. It’s natural to lash out and try to find someone or something to cling to, even if we drag them down with us in the process.

It’s also natural that the Western media has reacted so strongly to the Paris attacks over the Beirut attacks. Whether or not that’s right isn’t really for me to say. It just Is. The stories that we most relate to are when the victims most look like us, when what happens is close to home, that all hurts much more. It’s natural and human to have empathy sometimes and just sympathy other times. If we could viscerally feel the pain of every experience outside our own, we would go probably insane and very quickly end it. It’s too much. So we distance, we dehumanize, we point fingers, we blame, we cause more pain, in order to protect ourselves. We do so out of fear, and always have. Because the world is too great, the suffering too immense, the losses are unbearable. We are angry because life is unfair.

And we’re right. It is unfair. It’s incredibly unfair. And it fucking sucks. But it Is.

I laugh now looking at my past blog and journal posts. I always think I have all the answers. I just keep having the same epiphanies over and over again. I realize a new truth, write about it, internalize it, and try to practice more mindful living. Which lasts a few days – a week or so if I really try. Then I go right back to being a human who gets angry and hurts and lashes out and clings and gets jealous and says mean things and has selfish thoughts and rolls her eyes and cries all the time and huffs and is just so OVER IT. Because I’m human. This time last year on my birthday, I wrote a whole post about being an adult. Hah hah! Boy, that lasted long. It’s very humbling, to say the least. But it does help me take myself less seriously, which I am always in need of.

You know, now that I think of it, Life IS kind of like school. Every year, you have the same core subjects with some new ones mixed in, and every year, you advance a level – if you do the work, that is. The material gets harder, more in-depth, more complex. But hopefully, if you work hard, do your homework, and listen in class, you become better equipped to handle such challenges. Sometimes you decide to abruptly switch your majors or transfer to a new school, which can also be so overwhelming and temporarily set you back, but you eventually adjust.

Ooooh, so that was the point of the first 21 years of my life. Now I get it. School’s just a metaphor, you guys!

Right now, I’m basically in “Life Whooping Your Ass 301: You Thought You Knew But You Had No Idea!” and I think I may be in way over my head. But thank god for tutors (aka therapists), amirite?

ANYWAY, point being, I’ve recently enacted an experiment where I put into practice one crucial key to Adulting that I totes forgot for like, my entire life, you guys. Acceptance.

As I’ve stated before, I have a crazy powerful imagination, I have a penchant for fantasies, an idealistic willful heart, and quite a passionate temper. I also tend to phone it in, coast, hide, and procrastinate when I can – basically at heart, I’m lazy. I also cling. Hard. To beliefs, habits, people, and some very longstanding grudges against certain people I feel have hurt me significantly. I do this simply because I can, because it’s easier, and because I’ve been getting away with it for nearly 28 years.

When I’m in pain, when terrible shit happens, when life’s unfair, there’s this persistent little voice in the back of my head that whines, “But WHYYYYYY?!” (Did you also read this in Cartman’s voice? No? Just me?)

Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)
Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)

God, I hear that voice a lot. But I usually don’t wait to hear the answer.

If I did, I bet my inner Good Mother would stroke my hair and simply say, “Because.”

And when I ask again, “But WHHHYYYYYY!?” She would probably wrap me in her arms, think for a moment, and thoughtfully, sadly reply, “I don’t know.

So I’m working out my next thesis. I think the next step in this never ending grad school of self-discovery is Acceptance. Even when the answers aren’t clear and there seems to be no reason or logic at all. Because only through acceptance can you then move forward, heal, and let it go. Do I really want to carry my pain of the past around with me my entire life – begrudgingly, angrily, indignant that I’ve been slighted? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s really time to let that painful fire rage so that I can rise from the ashes. Truly embody the Six of Swords and leave behind past pain which has been holding me back from becoming who I need to be.

That doesn’t mean doing so is easy. Nope. This. Is. Super. Fucking. HARD. And so incredibly painful – I can’t even describe the pain. It’s a slow, very painful process and I miss everything so much and the reluctance is so strong. It’s scary to let go. (But you can’t get rid of the Babadook!)

Acceptance doesn’t discount the pain or wipe it clean or encourage apathy. Acceptance accepts the pain for what it is (that’s a weird phrase, huh), acknowledges the hurt, and eventually, hopefully, then lets the pain move through us, rather than take over us. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was unfair. I was hurt. I still hurt. It has affected me. But it happened. This is part of my story.

Because there is Life After Death. And if we’re lucky, we’re reborn a thousand times. The messages of peace and love and understanding that I’ve seen in the aftermath of these attacks are so beautiful and uplifting. It’s time to heal, as a planet, as humans, as humanity. We need to take care of each other. I see it in the strength of the Syrian refugees, the families of victims of senseless violence, the survivors of violent attacks and immense trauma. They persevere. They still have hope. They keep living. Because this is Life. And it Is.

I’ll leave you with this amazing little video. Sending you love.

Black Lives Matter

This entry is full of links, so please view on your computer if they’re not showing up on your phone. 

I have become obsessive. Ever since Officer Pantaleo was not indicted for using a banned choke-hold which lead to the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, I have taken to the internet and watched, read, and posted countless articles, videos, and blogs about this case, other cases like it, and the larger issues at hand. I cannot stop thinking about it. I cannot stop talking about it.

The deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, along with the non-indictment of both police officers responsible, has sparked a fury throughout the country. People from all walks of life and all racesteachers and students, celebrities, activists, politicians, and even some policemen – have voiced that they believe this isn’t right. As John Stewart so eloquently said, the facts of the Michael Brown case may have been hazy and witness accounts were conflicting, however most people seem to agree that Eric Garner was in no way resisting, and in no way was Officer Pantaleo’s use of the choke-hold justified. And still, regardless of all of any other point to this argument, there remains the fact that Pantaleo still should have been indicted – we all watched the video (in horror) and it was clear as day. Even if he did feel threatened or thought the force was justified, why not at the very least let this go to court? Why are we letting police officers use lethal force without any investigation or repercussions? This has sparked a larger debate throughout the nation – is the system broke? And if so, how do we fix it?

A lot of people are resisting this issue and disagree with the protesters. They believe that policemen and women are within their right to use lethal force if they feel threatened, and should not have to defend themselves, especially when their sole job is to defend their community. Some agree that Eric Garner’s case may be unjust, but rioting and looting in the streets is unacceptable. Others believe this isn’t a race issue at all, and since Garner was arrested for selling loose cigarettes in the past, he made his own choices that led to his demise. After all, Michael Brown was clearly a thug, he was an unarmed 18-year-old but when he had a scuffle with  armed Officer Darren Wilson (not on duty and not in uniform), he sealed his fate of being shot 4 times, including once in the head, while being 50 feet away from the policeman. You must always listen to a police officer and if you just complied, things like this wouldn’t happen. (I’m being sarcastic, by the way.)

Well, I’ve been talking about all of this for days, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. My heart is heavy and I’m so incredibly sad and angry. So instead of going on and on here in this blog, I will just simply link to articles and videos that say it better than I can.

Before you go defend Officer Wilson and Officer Pantaleo and the fact that they were not indicted, please peruse the links below. And if you’re angry or confused about this issue, please do the same.

Everyone – educate yourself. Listen. Learn. I believe we are in the midst of a huge movement in this country – one that is way overdue. And while this situation is steeped in high emotions on both sides, I believe that intelligent discussion and facts can only serve us.

“I Don’t Want to Be Afraid of The Police” by Franchesca Ramsey. – Video

The Deaths of Black Men in America, MSNBC – Video

A Black Man is Killed Every 28 Hours in the U.S. by Police.

When the Media Treats White Suspects and Killers Better Than Black Victims. – HuffPost

In 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD cops in 15 years, only 3 cases led to indictments — and just 1 conviction – NY Daily News

12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun in a park. Tamir Rice’s teen sister ‘tackled,’ handcuffed after his shooting, mom says – CNN

Unarmed Arizona man shot dead by Phoenix cop who mistook pill bottle for pistol. – NY Daily News

Officer Put on Modified Duty After Shooting, Killing Unarmed Man in Brooklyn Apartment Building Stairwell – NBC New York

Plain-clothes Philly cops shoot hoodie-wearing pizza man who thought he was being robbed – Raw Story

Black Teenager Taken Out Of School, Jailed For Month Without Probable Cause, Lawsuit Says – HuffPost

Cops shoot and kill man holding toy gun in Wal-Mart – MSNBC

Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Youth in Bronx – NY Times. Related aftermath: We Still Don’t Know What Happened To Ramarley Graham. – HuffPost

Knifeman shot dead by LAPD in front of scores of tourists ‘was street performer who dressed as Scream villain’ – UK Daily Mail

Ezell Ford: The mentally ill black man killed by the LAPD two days after Michael Brown’s death – Washington Post

But it’s not just Black men and boys who are targeted:

Cops Slam Unarmed Woman On The Pavement, Killing Her In Front of Family – Counter Current News.

Naked Brooklyn woman dragged from apartment by NYPD officers who say she beat 12-year-old daughter – NY Daily News

Pregnant woman apparently put in chokehold by NYPD cop during dispute over illegal grilling – NY Daily News

Did The NYPD Suffocate A Mentally Ill Woman To Death While Trying To Cuff Her? – Gothamist

And it’s not just Black adults, even little girls are guilty of being Black.

Manslaughter Charge Dropped For Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old – HuffPost

In fact, all little girls and boys of color are a threat.

SD Police Say Tasing 8-Year-Old Native Girl Was Justified, Family Sues.

Still not convinced? Here is an account from a former St. Louis police officer about racism and excessive force used by police.

The problem is not the individual police officers. I do not hate cops. We need the police. Many of them are upstanding and brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. But we need accountability. We need to face the systematic racism that is rampant in this country. We need change.

So what is it that we propose? Here are our demands:

11 Demands for Accountability

Want to join in a protest? Find out where to peacefully march for justice near you.  The Millions March is tomorrow. See you then. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay active.