The last couple of weeks have certainly been filled with many tragedies and triumphs, as is more and more the case in our current milieu. When I find myself wandering into the darker places of despair, hopelessness, with sprinkles of “giving up”, I remind myself to widen the lens on the view I am taking of all of it. By taking a moment to look at the bigger picture – the one within which all of this is occurring – I reclaim my inner peace and acceptance of what is unfolding. I remember that I am responsible for doing what I can do – right here, right now. Consciously choosing to maintain perspective is one of my contributions to the shift that is underway.
Here are some things I have noticed.
- The name of the high school where the most recent mass shooting of innocents took place is Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The sign on the grounds of the school show its name as “Stoneman Douglas”. The letters on their baseball case, as worn by major league baseball players last week in their first Spring training game of the season, were “SD”. Although many media outlets are properly referring to the school by its full name, it is apparent that the school system does not. Stoneman Douglas by itself removes immediate attribution to the very powerful woman for who it is named.
- Our societal penchant for shaming and blaming is on display nearly every day, somewhere, in some situation where unexpected and tragic or difficult events take place.
- A focus on mental illness seems to be a rallying cry by many who seem to believe the reasons for mass killings is mental illness…not the guns. Sad truth is that it is both.
And here is what I feel is at the core of the above:
- The patriarchy has been at work in subtle and not so subtle ways for many, many years. Taking away or changing names is a dehumanizing practice which has been in place for many tragic chapters in the history of human experience. From the victims of the Nazi’s to the Native Americans and slaves, this has been done over and over again. So removing the first name of the woman for whom the school is named, and choosing to use the names which are masculine seems yet one more example of this dehumanizing or, perhaps in this case, removing the feminine (and powerful) reference, changes something.
- Brene Brown said, following the August 12, 2017 white supremacy rally which resulted in the death of one protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, that “We use shame when accountability isn’t working.” I believe that we use shame to distract from taking responsibility for our beliefs and resulting actions – whether in speaking, arguing or not listening to others who may see things from a different perspective than we do.
- Mental illness seems to be the scapegoat of many a blaming individual or group for what is deemed by them to be “wrong” in any given tragedy or situation which doesn’t have the outcome they believe is the “right” one. Yet, if we take the even broader view of mental illness while considering what may be at the deepest roots of this tragic epidemic in our society, we will see a group of people who will not rest until the middle class in the US is gone, their health benefits completely inaccessible, while costs of
livingsurvival continue to skyrocket. And we wonder why we are where we are.
I have faith. Our world is changing and people and even some governments are waking up in many places on our planet. I feel it.
The young people in this country, led by those who most recently were witness to the tragic loss of friends and yet one more layer of their innocence, have courageously stepped up to channel their sadness and grief into a powerful effort to be heard. They are not going away.
More importantly, they will be eligible to vote in the next Presidential election in 2020.
Finally, I am reaching back once more to Brene Brown’s perspective following the events in Charlottesville last August, for inspiration and hope for our future. She reminded us of these:
- Privilege is NOT how hard you work.
- Perspective taking through the lenses of age, race, etc. is essential to coming together – listening and beginning to understand.
- Power is infinite; “power to” and “power with” will move us forward, “Power over” is seeing its last stand.
She reminds us, “…the stories we own, we get to write the ending. If we don’t own our story, it owns us.” I feel this is true for us as individuals and, by definition, as a collective of humans on this planet.
I leave you with a quote from the late Stephen Covey, from his wonderful book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; Habit number 5:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
What a wonderful world it would be…if we all practiced this habit.