Seeing the best in life's challenges

Now What?

on July 14, 2013

The announcement of a verdict takes me back to April 29, 1992.

I remember the day that the Rodney King verdict was announced.  I drove through the East Side of Oakland that evening to take a class at Peralta College, then drove back home to Alameda after dark.  I had no idea anything had happened until after I got home.  Meanwhile, in L.A. there was rioting.  What a stark contrast.

The damage was done when Rodney King was beaten and the damage was done when Trayvon Martin was killed.  We hear this kind of news and we are angry and sad.  And it’s not only about those situations, it’s because we are reminded about the countless instances of injustice, prejudice, fear and cruelty that happen in the world.

How do we heal from these awful wounds?

Short term, we must grieve our losses.  Understanding grief is really helpful and it’s obvious that people are grieving.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying outlines the process, and the following quotes are from the summary that can be found here.

“People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.”

Denial: “This first stage of grieving helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”

Anger: “Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this?”

Bargaining: “We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what it was…”

Depression:  Sadness

Acceptance: “Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss… This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it.”

We can never fix what happened.  We can’t go back and change the past.  Even a guilty verdict will not bring a son back to his mother.  Grieving might help us to heal the pain of this, but it will not make things right.

How do we prevent these situations from happening again?

One approach, which is mostly the one that has been used in the past, involves the following:

-Bring people to justice.  Show others that you can’t get away with this kind of behavior.  Make people afraid of the consequences.

 -Pass laws against killing, violence, and tools used to perpetrate violence.  Gun Control.   Get tough on crime.

 -Make places safe.  Security checks.  Better lighting.

 -Teach our kids to be careful.  Maybe teach our kids to be afraid.

Ah, and there it is:  most of our “fixes” for the troubles we are afraid of in this world, involve piling on more fear.

From my point of view, this approach is not working to solve the underlying problem, it is only trying to control the symptoms.  Do you agree?

The fear response is so entrenched, I don’t think most people see what we are doing.

I have some friends whose kids are not blond and blue-eyed like mine, and I know they are having to have difficult discussions with them in light of what goes on in the world.  I am NOT saying that you don’t teach your kids to be aware of their surroundings and make smart decisions based on “the way it is.”  We all need to understand the realities of the world, and not be naïve.

HOWEVER, we have to be careful not to slip into what Lenore Skenazy calls “worst-first” thinking.  YES, there are bad situations and bad guys out there, but that doesn’t mean we should assume ALL situations and people are dangerous.

Because, this is exactly the attitude that led George Zimmerman to assume Trayvon Martin was dangerous and it’s what led to such a sad situation.

FEAR and WORST-FIRST thinking are what caused this tragedy.

BTW, block by block, Oakland (at least at the time) was the most diverse city in the United States.  Bet you didn’t know that.  Having worked there, and having lived “next door,” you could sense what that meant.  People knowing each other as people, accepting diversity, less of that “Us vs. Them” mentality.  I’m sure this didn’t happen overnight…..but over time, living together and getting to know each other, a different environment was created.

That gated community that

you think will keep you safe

is just perpetuating the problem.


4 responses to “Now What?

  1. The perspective that you reflect in this post is one of the many reasons I was attracted to you as a friend! I’ve been having a hard time putting to words, my response/reaction/placement around this news — you encapsulated so many of the octopus’ tentacles that are this group of issues, in your post. Thank you and Bless you!

    • jlcmom says:

      Thank you, I am so glad to hear that!! It really is a tough issue, as I have been reading responses from friends, and I feel their pain. I try to take all that in and absorb it and just see what comes to me. It’s really nice to know it resonates! 🙂

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