For the past few days I have been sleeping very badly, waking up frustrated, physically and mentally exhausted, scattered, angry.
On Sunday three police officers were shot dead by a gunman. You can easily find the horrible details on the news. I tried to write a post about how I felt, but the draft has just been lying there confused and frightened on the screen. Forgive me. There is so much I don't understand about life right now. Why am I here, what is going on, why is this happening? What is going on with the country, with the city, with me, with us?
None of my friends called to ask how we are doing in light of what's going on. How is your husband holding up, what's the situation over there, how do you guys feel? I felt angry about that. I am not sure I have any friends anymore. My father says I need to forgive people, "they don't know how to take things, how to talk about things, how to discuss difficult situations". My brother said "maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't watch the news. Maybe they have no idea". The anger that I felt when my mother died returned, bubbling up slowly inside of me. "Maybe people just don't care. Maybe people just think of themselves. Maybe they should all just go fuck themselves". Yea, I guess I feel angry.
Maybe people think I'm crazy for marrying an American. A black American. A black American from Louisiana. Maybe people think I'm crazy for leaving everything, my family, my job, my whole life to come live with him here. Maybe they wished me good luck and goodbye and have a nice life. It sure feels that way. It sure feels lonely. I know they couldn't possibly understand, I know I'm being unfair. It's still frustrating. It still feels like a betrayal.
After the tragic, horrible events of Sunday we have had to deal with the Republican Convention all week. I have tried to see it in a humorous light as people are trying everywhere I think, but it is hard for one not to be, if not at a conscious, then at a subconscious level deleteriously affected by what is being presented on that TV screen, the mob mentality, the people shouting, the hatred, the divisiveness, the fear. It is easy for people to say this is a joke, this is politics, this is TV, this is 'Murica, but when it jumps out of that TV screen and materializes into bullets that fly around your streets and neighborhoods destroying lives, families, children and communities across the board then it is not so funny anymore. It's depressing, frightening, infuriating.
Today on the drive to work we stopped at the post office. Close to the post office is a small house which always (or at least the two years I have been living here) had a confederate flag hanging from the flag pole by the front door. The car parked outside always donned many bumper stickers with right-wing conservative slogans, and praises to Reagan and DON'T TREAD ON ME and the works. Wherever I go I find such shows of political beliefs and fanaticism to be slightly amusing and so as we turned the corner I was ready to make my usual eye-roll and witty remark but today we were faced with something else. The confederate flag was gone, and in its place was a black, white and red flag with a black cross in the center. Without really knowing what the flag represents I understood intuitively what it symbolised. The powerful combination of black white and red took root in my gut and its poison never really left me since this morning.
I have never really feared for my future before. I have never really feared for the life of my loved ones and my life like this before. I have never really feared for the future of the world like this before. If I feel defeated after living two years in this place, I can't imagine how people who have lived their whole lives in this system feel and my heart goes out to all the oppressed, shunned people of the world whose plight I can't begin to understand.
I find solace in the love I have for my family and my husband, the love they have for me, and my books, filled with the wisdom that in reality, I am just the space in which all of this unfolds. Ultimately nobody can really touch me because I am formless. Enlightenment is taking too long goddamn it, but in the meantime I am trying my best to stay present with my emotions, be a good citizen (or actually temporary permanent resident), wife, daughter, sister, cousin and friend. I sleep with Etty Hillesum's diary on my bed side table and I carry Thomas Merton's words in my heart. I realise I might sound a bit dramatic and over the top, I realize I am not experiencing an actual war, but I feel like there is a war being played in our minds, and I feel like it involves all of us, not just the ones who happen to find themselves on these shores. What is happening around the world is first and foremost happening in our minds and our psyches. We all have a responsibility.
The least we can do is discuss these things openly and honestly with each other and really listen to each other, be the space where that anger, pain, frustration can be expressed. Even that has not been happening in our lives with a lot of doors to discussion bolted shut, with a lot of voices delegitimized on some really ignorant grounds. But more on that later.
When I was 16 I was lucky enough to go on a History Trip with my school. We visited WWI and WWII battlefields in France and Belgium. It was a trip that profoundly affected me. When I tell you there were crosses for miles and miles in all directions till the horizon, till the eye can see. Just white crosses with no names. Crosses of people who were 18, 19, 20 years old. Millions of people died. The European Union sprouted from all that blood. People saw all that death and realized how crazy it all had been, they realized they had to have peace. What happened to us? How did we forget that all humans really, truly want in the end is to live with each other in peace? Where is that history being taught? Why are humans so quick to hate but so slow to love?
All these and other terrible thoughts have been banging against my skull all week and I had no idea why I was so exhausted. I am so truly sorry for this ugly post. It is a matter of survival. The big lesson of the week is sometimes we need to make space for the bad emotions so that they can surface and be acknowledged, otherwise they will take a toll on body and soul. I will publish my more hopeful, more thoughtful and more practical post soon.