What a strange thing, to wake up to news of killing in my homeland here, the same way I do to killing in the land of my birth. I assume that the people who are killing didn’t read my post from Sunday, wherein I said killing is wrong. Maybe they only read the headline of the last post and believed it meant go ahead and engage in homicide and then figure out a way to justify it. I mean, that’s what happens anyway, right? Who says I killed that person and there was no good reason for it – whether it’s 70 virgins, or a bump in your gang status, or just pure, unadulterated anger – the justification exists somewhere in your mind.
Here’s a secret: I’ve taken some time off recently. I haven’t made it public (until now), but I’ve had a chance to sit back and think about the world we live in, and life in general.* It’s been a luxury and a privilege, but it’s also been a fairly difficult time of unraveling ideas and beliefs I’d held true for so long, that I figured out are just mechanisms for keeping my on my hamster wheel, for making sure I remained unhappy yet terribly committed to my status quo. (not THE status quo, because I don’t give a shit about that. It’s fortunate that my status quo means being incredibly productive and doing good work for my clients and my family. Yet, it’s also been incredibly draining.)
During this time off I’ve had the chance to talk to and meet so many different people from all walks of life, to think about who we are as a society and what motivates us as a culture and as individuals. Look, I’m not a pundit or an anthropologist or some sort of social sciency person. I don’t get paid to do anything other than represent people in cases against the government. That’s it. But one way to get very good at what you do is to learn everything you can about your subject. I can be good at the law itself, but that only gets me so far. I could write appeals probably. As long as I never had to interact with a human I’d be ok. But, honestly, no one but a stick up the butt prosecutor cares that much about the rules as they are written in a book. That’s just the beginning of it all. I think of it this way: the law is the poison on the tip of an arrow. Without being skillful at pulling the quiver, releasing it and sending the arrow to the target, the poison itself is worthless.
If I don’t know how to get to your heart, how can I slay you with my amazing law knowledge?
Now, where were we? Right, we are killing each other.
Here’s a thought that may be sort of controversial, but I don’t know for sure until I say it. Black folks are tired of being discriminated against.( I know that’s not the controversial bit, just wait for it.) White people are tired of being blamed for all the racism that has ever existed against blacks, even though they, themselves didn’t have anything to do with it and would have chosen not to have it ever exist. Black people are unable or unwilling to give white people a chance to prove themselves on an individual basis because of this history (and present state) of racism and discrimination, so the beginning stance is one of anger and distrust. White people don’t get it, so step into situations thinking “Hey, I’m going to say something here that sounds helpful and like I understand.” And when the white person does it and the black person says “You don’t understand what it’s like” the white person gets upset because they were trying. The controversy is here:
Everyone is wrong.
Blame is a wonderful thing. It distracts you from the problem solving part of life. And man, solving problems is really hard. Blaming, well, that gets you riled up or sad or you cry or are relieved that it isn’t your fault. It makes you feel all sorts of things and if you convince yourself you need to get to what caused the problem then you will never ever get to fixing the problem. Fixing requires work. You don’t get to sit in a room and think thoughts and write them in your journal all for yourself. You don’t get to sit at your computer googling the latest events that will justify your feelings. You have to, holy shit – you have to DO SOMETHING. And I don’t mean in the congressional sense of passing a law or some other sort of nonsensical do something that does more harm than good, but you may have to get out of your comfort zone and do a thing to solve a real problem that really exists.
This isn’t just about police.
This isn’t just about prosecutors or judges or welfare.
This is about us. Me and you. Yes, you reading this. You as a human individual person named Jim or Ahamd or Sarah or Lindsey. You.
We know what the problem is already. We know why it exists. Slavery, jim crow laws, poverty, drug war, elitism, affirmative action, KKK. We know.
Now, everyone get to work on fixing it. We’ve spent decades on figuring out the why. Who is going to step up and figure out the how. You don’t like Black Lives Matter because you think everything is now peachy keen? Well, that’s a dumb reason to not like them because it’s not peachy. Nope. Sorry. You don’t like them because you think they go about their mission the wrong way – ah, good. Go tell them. And organizers and activists, shut up for a second. You have allies. They exist and you actually affirmatively push them away. Yes, you do. People have questions, they are cautious and confused. They feel like they are invading a space where they don’t belong but maybe they’d like to know how to help.
No movement is successful without the will of the powers that be, and if you tell yourself otherwise you are wrong. There is always someone on the inside who knows what motivates people. There is always a masterful archer. The rest of you are out there in you Saturday night drunken dart leagues.
I do not believe my country here is doomed. If I can have faith in my country there, where the situation is much graver, then I am clearly a person of endless optimism.
Just stop killing each other. And fix it.
* Song by Depeche Mode and one of my favorites. I do love Martin Gore: