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“The Thread and the Cloth”

I have been, like so many, washed over by the news of shocking and violent loss (from all over our country) these past few days. Of course, the circumstances vary, our grasp of what happened in each situation is still foggy and conflicting and there’s no question that each is fueled by deep divides in political sentiments that loom large. All that said, I want to attend to what is common to each confused and terrifying incident, by reminding us that each person lost was an individual. Each person had a name, a history, people who loved them and lives that mattered. Keeping loss anonymous, politically fueled, or presenting it in a ‘for and against causes’ way, helps us miss our common vulnerability. It keeps us imagining that in an “us and them” way of framing things, we can perhaps remain observers, relatively safe, on the sidelines. While each circumstance is a very specific story, with a long and meaningful series of differentiations to be made,  I wonder why we, so often, seem just incapable of grasping the sheer horror of these incidents? Beyond the finger pointing that these deaths result in, how can we take up the grief that they really should engender? I want to call you back to the last post I made ( following the Orlando shootings in June) and highlight a central reflection that the poet made.”…Before you know the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.” I think that when we genuinely appreciate, how ‘this too could be us’, we are challenged to surrender our defensiveness. We might come to own the fact that, “he” ( the Indian, the police officer, the CD mover, the School Cook, the people dancing in a nightclub in Orlando) ARE us. We resist knowing this, likely, because it is terrifying .

Wonder about…Stanley Almodovar, Amanda Alvear, Oscar Aracena, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Angel Candelario-Padro, Darryl Roman Burt, Cory James Connell, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Josaphat, Kimberly Morris, Edward Sotomayor, Shane Evan Tomlinson, Luis Vielma, Jimmy Bejesus Velazquez, Alton Sterling, Philander Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Thomas Kirk…and the many, many unnamed others who, “…journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive…”,  it is what we are all doing..

 2 Responses 

  1. I see what you did there.
    As each horror unfurls, it becomes harder to doubt the possibility that it could be me, you, or Thomas, Jr.
    We are in a small RV in Maine and my first thought yesterday morning was to drive north – far North. But we can’t abandon our lives and loved ones. So we move on- mindful to be kind, meet strangers’ eyes full on- esp if they don’t look just like us, and struggle against the hateful rhetoric!

    • Eileen Vandergrift

      None of us can drive far enough north to be beyond the reach of terror! If we can agree, in all good conscience, that no one should have to live in fear, then perhaps our individual need for courage will grow.
      The willingness to meet strangers, and to be mindful of the necessity for kindness, might allow us to appreciate more fully that the fear of one another is our real and shared enemy. Appreciating our common vulnerability has the potential to expand our social conversation beyond attention to difference and divide. Hate is always an easy and wrong answer, ending any conversation that might move us forward. Be suspicious of all easy solutions to complicated human struggles, they are meant to relieve you, not grow things forward. Kindness, mindfulness, opening your gaze to people who look different than you are not simple things sometimes. With practice, they could become the most natural things in the world AND they might take us beyond, and differentiate us from, those who offer ‘hateful rhetoric’. Let’s aims for homegrown change. Thanks for your reflections. These are difficult times and they tend to stir all our old losses and anxieties. I am happy to share the vulnerability rather than the unchecked hate that comes of fear.

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