Friday, January 2, 2015

All Lives Matter

It's important to say at the beginning of this post that this is not a negation or replacement of the phrase Black Lives Matter.  Black men are killed with appalling regularity.  These days I go through the horrible litany: Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Alex Nieto, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, Tamil Rice, Eric Garner--and it goes on and on. The church across the street has a big bold banner saying Black Lives Matter on the steeple.  It's a very necessary reminder.

Cops Lives Matter as well.  It's not just Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.  Police officers are killed with alarming regularity as well.  And their deaths and the deaths of young men of color are intertwined.  The likelihood of a police officer being attacked or killed means they are less likely to take chances.  Unfortunately there is an ugly truth to the phrase "Shoot first and ask questions later".  You have scared young men out there with guns--and many of them are police officers.

And the lives of queer folk matter, too.  The suicide of Leelah Alcorn, splashed all over the news yesterday, is just the latest in a long list of deaths of transgendered people.  There is a Transgender Day of Remembrance held every year on November 20th to mark their deaths, often at the hands of others.  Just because there's same sex marriage in many states now, doesn't mean that young GLBTQ folks aren't still committing suicide out of despair, not to mention being killed by homophobic people, sometimes in their own family.

I could go on and on.  We are all hurting.  When people affirm the 99%, the 1% get scared.  They may have all the power and privilege, but it doesn't stop them from fear.  Everyone gets worried about being left behind.

How can we say to each person that their life matters as well?  This isn't some kind of new age platitude 'everyone's life is important'.  That's true but it doesn't address specifics.  It doesn't address oppression and hierarchy and the way that suffering is intensified in some communities.

When Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed in New York, the family of Michael Brown spoke out, 'condemning' the murder.  "We must work together to bring peace to our communities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers’ families during this incredibly difficult time..." their statement read in part.  The Ferguson Action Coalition also released a statement saying "We mourned with the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown who experienced unspeakable loss, and similarly our hearts go out to the families of these officers who are now experiencing that same grief."

It is the same grief, the same horrendous loss.  We need to approach each loss, each point of pain and suffering as unique, requiring a unique response.  Sometimes we need to go out there and demonstrate, or write strong demands on what we must do, and sometimes we need to come together and grieve quietly.

We also need to approach each person in our lives, everyone we come in contact with, in the most gentle, loving way that we can, acknowledging the uniqueness of their situation.  On January 1, 2010, I posted Leo Tolstoy's story, Three Questions, which ends with the statement "The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you..."  We need to approach each person and each tragedy by looking at what is important for them.  In the same way, I believe we need to love each person that we come in contact with in the way that most affirms who they are, while giving only what we truly can.

If we could only bring real love and compassion to everyone we meet, especially all who are suffering, we would make a difference in the world.  We need to care about each other and we need to care for each other.  Because, truly, all lives matter.

Quote of the Day: "Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens." - Ella Baker

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