Remember when we were all “2015! Ugh! Good Riddance! Bring on the new year!”?
NOW what do we say? We’re halfway through 2016 and we are making a bigger cock-up of it than the last try. I hate to boil all our jumbled fury and helplessness down to bullet points, but we have all been trained by our own internet habits to comprehend things best this way, so here goes:
- The world is not fair, but humans are hardwired to believe it should be. This is good because it makes us struggle every day to fix the world.
- This is also really bad, because it can leave us feeling helpless, or used, or disrespected, or attacked. Then we may lash out. When we lash out, it is often directed at loved ones or innocent bystanders.
- Some people’s brains don’t work right. Just like some people’s hearts, or eyes, or Isles of Langerhans don’t work right. Unfortunately, we are crap at fixing people’s brains.
- The NRA has morphed from a sportsman's gun safety organization to a black-hearted oligopoly of profit spawned by rich white men who make gobs of money selling guns and ammunition to scared people by fostering fear and hate.
- ISIS is a malevolent pile of evil spawned by twisted men who think if they brutalize and massacre as many humans of the wrong religion (including the wrong brand of Islam) as possible, their twisted version of god will reward them in their twisted version of heaven, which seems to be a ninth level of hell for those poor virgins they expect to continue to abuse there.
- Tribalism of any type (extreme nationalism, bigotry, homophobia, elitism, counter-elitism, etc.) is a human trait that served us well when we carried spears and wore bikinis made of deer skin, but causes us pain in any arena other than sports. If you start thinking "they" are a bunch of unworthy yahoos, you are thinking with your caveman brain and remember "they" are the same as you.
- Cops are like you and me, only in the course of their job, they meet dozens of people every day who HATE THEIR GUTS. Because cops are constantly sent to witness and isolate the worst in humans on a daily, minute-by-minute basis, their whole outlook can become skewed and darkened. Beside the actual physical risk of the job, they also face this spiritual risk. If not deliberately tempered by other, more benevolent forces such as family, friends or religion, they can begin to imagine the whole of human life as evil, sneaky, and out to do them harm.
- This is not an excuse for bad behavior, but it is a warning – to cops and to citizens. Authorities need to make sure their cops are healthy in mind and body. Cops need to find a positive outlet so that they regularly see the good in their fellow humans, especially those who may not look like them. Citizens need to remember that cops may be seeing you through a worst-case-scenario lens where their highest priority is getting through the interaction without getting hurt. Or worse.
- The antagonism between (mostly white) cops and men of color has a long, true history that is buried deep in the DNA of both groups, and cannot be unwritten by wishing it so. But it can be reduced through acknowledging it, being aware of it, training, hiring more minorities, and then doing more training.
- I hope I didn’t say anything dumb. Maybe white people with Priuses and MacBooks shouldn’t be the ones to be blabbing about all this race-related violence, but to not act or speak would be worse, so I did what I normally do when I don’t know what else to do. I wrote.
And Now. My Recommendations For You.
All the actions below make a difference in large and small ways. Please do one or more.
- Pray. In whatever flavor you like. Just do it quietly.
- Meditate. The history of Meditation is Hindu and Buddhist, but if you’re not Hindu or Buddhist, then it’s not. It’s just a way to rest and reset the mind, and has been shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure, depression and anger. Google it. There are lots of how-tos.
- Practice Yoga. Again, this has a Hindu flavor, but it’s really a form of full-body meditation. You can do it in your living room with a video or visit a studio. I find home yoga to be more restful, but you do you.
- Get Involved. Call your local authorities and ask them how they are facing this challenge. With luck, you will come away with a better idea about how your local government and policing structure is making a difference. If that is not happening, you can voice your wish that they would prioritize training and hiring to address the issue.
- Practice Random Acts of Kindness. This will feel better for you than for your lucky recipient. Don’t forget to be kind on the road.
- Pay For Your Privilege With Actual Money. Choose a cause. Start here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/
- Practice Empathy. Remember, like the meme says, you don’t know your fellow human’s struggle, so please, when someone does something thoughtless, think to yourself “THIS IS MY NONJUDGMENTAL FACE,” and remember that they are living in their own brain and it might be frightening (or completely empty) in there.
Please pass it on. More praying. More meditation. More kindness. That’s the least and most we can do.