all of the selves we Have ever been
We are in a world of hurt.
First the coronavirus surprised us, wore us down, made us tense, vigilant, exhausted. “Let’s sacrifice the old people and get back to commerce,” said some leaders. “Our black and Hispanic communities are disproportionately represented among the COVID-19 victims,” reported others. “There is a new, terrifying syndrome breaking out among children,” the scientists testified. Obese people, folks with hypertension and “underlying conditions” were included in the warnings. Health care workers fell like dominoes. News men and women broadcasted their illnesses, quarantines, and hospitalizations before our eyes. No one was deemed safe from the risk of lengthy and horrifying illness.
And while we were broken and shaken, the knee came down on the neck of George Floyd. Came down on all of us. Undeniable.
I am beginning to feel like I can’t breathe. And maybe that is the point. That we share the suffocating feeling. Join with our black and brown brothers and sisters in their pain, their sorrow, their outrage. Understand the weight. The burden.
Everyone is raw. Perhaps the new coronavirus is a last-resort, divine intervention to help us all see and feel what it is like to live in a world where silent danger lurks in our homes, our families, our neighborhoods, our churches, our shops, our schools, our workplaces, and out on the street—to understand what it is like to live with the awareness that you are not safe anywhere.
For me and for others, the current, collective circumstances have awakened memories of all of the injustices I have known and carried for myself and for others. Injustices that occurred in homes, on the playground, in the classroom, throughout the neighborhood, in church, in the workplace, the doctor’s office, and on the sports field. Injustices that occurred because of age, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, and temperament.
It is overwhelming that there are so many voices, so much hidden hurt. It is like the worst possible car crash. Every organ, every bone, every bit of tissue of society is damaged. Where to begin the treatment?
When the doctor asks, “Where does it hurt,” we must be able to tell the truth.
We all need to be heard. When terrible things happen the frequent question is why didn’t someone speak up sooner? Noble as it may be, it is difficult to speak truth to power. There is reprisal. When even at the highest levels in the land, there is a revolving door of the dismissed, what hope is there for a common laborer or a black man on the street? Far too often, the bad guys win. The whistleblower is deemed a hysteric, a liar, a disgruntled employee. Not only do they lose their job, they lose their reputation. Their character, their divine spark is called into question. Speaking truth to power leads to disdain, disbelief, and dismemberment.
People in power do it to us, but we do it to each other through social media. These powerful outlets can be a tool to bring the truth to light, but too many times, it used to destroy others. Hidden behind their screens, individuals say outrageous, hurtful, destructive things that cost people their jobs and their lives. Trolls and mobs rule. How do we stand up to this new force?
When influence and a following become more important than expertise, when living in the spotlight becomes more important than truth, when desire for “likes” overwhelms right action, when pandering to a fan club becomes more important than genuine leadership, what hope do we have?
When I am injured, I want to know the ER doctors have reliable knowledge, skills, tools, and experts with whom to consult and refer. I want to be able to trust that they know the right questions to ask and how to triage. I want to know that everyone brought to the emergency room gets care and reassurance.
We are in a world of hurt. We need to be able to say that we are hurting, where it hurts, and what caused the pain. Action is the only way to confirm that the truth has been heard.
Leadership action once meant that the captain went down with the ship. Such a potential outcome provided motivation for getting everyone out alive. In that scenario, the exercise of duty to others and to self is one and the same.
We are hungry for leaders of moral courage, leaders who are part doctor, part captain, social healers who can dig down and find the truth, stop the bleeding, right the ship, and steer the course. Is there anyone out there--on duty or on vacation--who can get us out of this world of hurt?