These past weeks I have been processing my grief over the state of the world, and especially the state of my motherland. If I see one more ‘All Lives Matter’ meme on social media my patience will snap like the taut and frayed rubber band it is some days. Because evidence is very clear that all lives do NOT matter. Ask people of colour. Ask people who are disabled. Ask the single mum juggling multiple jobs and is constantly in debt. Ask any nurse anywhere in the world who is STILL low paid and risking his or her life everyday in our COVID19 world with inadequate PPE. Heck, if you even want to look at the privileged end of the spectrum, ask the female news co-anchor who earns less than her male counterpart!
Everyday we see evidence that ALL lives do not matter. It is not just a divided world, but a deeply unequal world because the operating system is that all lives do NOT matter. There is plenty of evidence that some lives are credited to be worth more. Often they have higher bank balances.
To say ‘All Lives Matter’ to people who have first hand experience that this is not true is to rub salt in a raw wound. It has the same ring of truth to it as “Arbeit Macht Frei”, the slogan over the gates of Auschwitz. Work did not make anyone free there. It was a slogan to pacify. It was propaganda.
Aside from the fact that the phrase has become a dog whistle for white supremacy, what some literalists really are saying is that All Lives SHOULD Matter. That is not the same thing at all. The majority can probably (hopefully) unite behind that qualifying ‘should’ in that phrase. But unity is not exactly part of our operating system either. One would have hoped that a deadly virus disrupting the planet might have had some tonic effect. Sadly, it has not.
Hence, some days I am in deep grief. I am beyond the denial stage. I have experienced the pain and guilt. I have spikes of anger. I have days of depression, crushed by the weight of the wickedness that many deny. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice (or righteousness in some translations) for they shall be satisfied.”
Of course, we will not have that hunger and thirst satisfied until we all start behaving as if all lives actually do matter. That we will have to love the perceived enemy and turn the other cheek just as the late Representative John Lewis did, he who forgave the Klansman that beat him senseless, he who accepted that man’s repentence and apology. That is the true meaning of grace.
Our hearts will have to open up a larger and larger space for that to happen. There will need to be less of the ‘I’ and more of the ‘we, ALL the people,’ not just the person who looks like one’s self, or acts the same, or holds the identical beliefs and opinions. We will need to accept our guilt and repent and then get to that final stage of grief where we find new motivation, become inspired and rediscover hope.
I am waiting to be satisfied. I’ve been feeling mighty hungry and thirsty for a long time. I want to be hopeful. Consider this poem I wrote back in 2016, my longing then for a change in the collective heart, for a world where we find that mislaid moral compass and act with magnanimity. It has been a long time coming. I pray for that collective state of grace every morning.
What Really Matters It’s been that kind of week where I have wandered stunned, blinking my eyes furiously, weary, wordless. It’s been heavy weather. It’s hot somewhere. Somewhere someone is getting shot and it’s not so random who gets to be the duck in the shooting gallery. I am weary and tearful, wondering how it feels to go through life knowing you have a target on your back for someone to bait and hate? How does it feel to be the mother of some son, permanently on alert, trying to hide that big, round bull’s-eye on her sweet child’s back just because he is brown or gay or black? I want to weep but there has just been too much hate this week. We need so much more than a safety pin trying to hold the centre together. Risk all for love! the poet wrote. He was Muslim. It might start with standing up to bullies on a tram. It might end by being on that same firing line with the guy who has had a target on his back all his life but this time he won’t be alone. It’s not right that it might matter more to some the one who would not let that guy with the bull’s-eye on his back go out into that dark goodnight on his own. But it does matter that he did not go alone. It matters that the world not have a heart the size of a pickled walnut. That someone take a hand out of their pocket, grab hold of that marked man, that they duck and dive together trying to stay alive, getting home to hug their mothers and their lovers. Now that would be a good night. That would be a better day. There might still be a few tears, but Love would not have taken yet another fatal hit. © Bee Smith 2016 As I see Moms in yellow t-shirts and Dads with leafblowers in Portland, I see people extending the hand that repents, apologises, that wants to get a son and daughter home safe tonight. The featured image is an official portrait of the late Rep. John Lewis from Wikipedia.