As one of those people who believe kindness is a key to survival and, yes, empathy and love, I see that as more evident now than it ever was.
Once upon a time, I worked in a hospital where nurses, children, and hemophiliacs were testing positive for HIV along with heterosexuals who got it from an infected partner. People were saying that quarantining the infected was the solution. Of course, they believed it affected only drug addicts, gay people, sex workers, etc. Some decided it was God’s wrath.
I think most of us agree that law-abiding people with addictions, afflictions or different sexual preferences and ethnicities do not deserve punishment or anyone’s wrath. It’s just the opposite. They’re entitled to the same rights and to be treated with equal dignity and respect. We embrace them and love them for who they are because they’re as worthy of that as we are.
But when HIV was the biggest concern, I heard people say that quarantining the infected was the solution. They, including our leaders, saw no need to aggressively fight the spread of HIV because they didn’t think their own communities could be affected.
Now, here we are with COVID. Many people who might have thought it was an excellent idea to quarantine people back then are talking about their freedom not to wear a mask or get vaccinated. At a time when the disease seemed to affect minorities they’d deemed undesirable, they didn’t question the government or the existence of a pandemic. They somehow found methods of complying with safer sex.
Meanwhile, I guarantee those people infected with HIV would have loved to get vaccinated if it meant the disease going away or not being transmissible. I’m sure most of them willingly did what doctors asked them to do to prevent the spread of this disease.
Thanks to scientists and the gay community who fought tooth and nail for help, effective drugs came along, making HIV no longer a death sentence. Many of those infected live normal lives with the virus and achieve an undetectable status where they can’t infect others.
So, what is the thing about COVID that people suddenly want to be so defiant? I’m sure they’d be outraged if anyone tried to quarantine them or discriminate against them the way they did people with HIV or AIDS. And COVID is so much easier to transmit than HIV. Why would they not, at least, wear a mask?
With all I’ve seen throughout my life, I firmly believe this is not a thing to fool around with, and ego/pride is not anyone’s friend in this sort of crisis.
We’ve seen it with the COVID situation. Mocking, taunting, and terrorizing people who adhere to the restrictions is a thing now. The perpetrators don’t value your life. To them, it’s all a big joke. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of selected compassion reserved for people who are like them and agree with them, or an issue of not having empathy at all.
Of course, it stands to reason then, they would rather not hear that black lives matter or that we need racial justice and equality. It makes them angry or uncomfortable, and maybe they will despise me for talking about it. But this problem is so much bigger than them or me or even George Floyd specifically. It’s not something that just happened or something unusual. It’s not a situation where there are two sides.
Believe me, the people who were not outraged by what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black victims of police brutality were indeed outraged about the riots. When they mention George Floyd, they refer to his death as a tragedy and not a cold-blooded murder or lynching, which is what it was.
Some are quick to say, well, he had a violent past. Yes, that’s true. It’s also true that he served his time and was trying to turn his life around. But that’s beside the point. There was nothing—absolutely nothing— that justified excessive use of force in his arrest, let alone murder.
The truth hurts. But we have to deal with it. We have to talk about it because we must change the system.
Let’s talk about the riots.
Most of us don’t want to see others get robbed or shot or suffer a devastating loss. Speaking for myself alone, I’m a humanist. I can’t stand to see anyone suffer or live in fear. We hurt people enough unintentionally because we are human. Still, when you harm others willfully and maliciously or wish it or condone it or ignore it, I don’t see your humanity at all.
And if you are willing to break the law during a COVID pandemic— defiantly putting others at risk so that you can buy a donut in person or get your stupid ass nails done, you don’t get to complain to me about any of this. You are willing to harm others because of your rage, yet you cannot grasp why some protesters may cross the line and seek to harm because of what anger they feel over something that actually matters.
In other words, it’s okay to be an angry white person, but it’s not okay to be an angry black person. We can deal with those angry white people armed to the teeth. But we can’t deal with a scared and unarmed black person who doesn’t want to get arrested. Violence isn’t the answer. Neither is breaking the law. It shouldn’t matter who you are.
Similarly, freedom of speech should extend to all. However, when we start speaking up about racial injustice, people want to shut it down.
And, as we know, many of those incensed over the riots were not okay with any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise. They are the same people always clamoring about a civil war and threatening to start one. What the hell do they think happens during a civil war? It would be far worse than anything we’ve seen play out during these protests.
They fear tyranny so much that they won’t protect themselves and others in a pandemic. Still, they don’t mind police using excessive force on protesters, and they don’t see a problem with deploying the military against its citizens. Isn’t that the reason they are always harping about the second amendment? Isn’t that why they fear the government is coming for their guns? Or do they think they will never be brutalized or killed standing up for what’s right because they are white? Think again. Power and greed continue to corrupt our government. Oh, wait, you already know that. It’s why you won’t give up your guns.
By the way, do the people who keep blaming Antifa for everything even know what Antifa is? I admit I didn’t know myself until recently. What I now understand is, Antifa stands for antifascism and is not an entity. It’s a movement, a stance you take. Anyone can claim to be Antifa. Didn’t Twitter recently close down an account of white nationalists pretending to represent Antifa and calling for violence? Why, yes, they did! There are also links to information about white supremacist groups showing up at protests and wreaking havoc attributed to Antifa and the protestors. The FBI supposedly investigated “Antifa” and came up with nothing. My guess is, most of the protesters are legitimate. Others have another agenda. I don’t know anything for sure. Neither do you. But I will say, it does make sense to me that white supremacists would sabotage a protest for racial justice. They know how to get their base outraged, and it’s not by murdering a black man in cold blood.
Let’s talk about the police.
Police have a difficult job to do. I know that. We need them, and, to enforce the law, they have to be tough. I get it. You’re talking to a huge fan of detective shows here. In the book I’m currently writing, my main character is a detective, and though he’s flawed like every other human, he’s been one of my favorite characters to write.
I always say it takes all kinds. I’ve met very kind police officers, and I’ve met some nasty ones. Believe it or not, I want to understand them, too.
According to the National Center for Women and Policing, “Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.”
Women in these situations are often terrified of taking action because their partners have the backing of their fellow officers.
Hazelden Betty Ford.org notes, “In 2010, a study of police officers working in urban areas found that 11% of male officers and 16% of female officers reported alcohol use levels deemed “at-risk” by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Also noted is a “high prevalence of psychological and pathological stress disorders such as PTSD when already stressed officers are exposed to traumatic events.”
Police Psychology.com has information on its website about the problems and difficulties that unexpressed anger can create. They cite “pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile.”
My question is, are we doing enough to help police officers, or is the system failing them, too?
We have outreach programs and resources, but, as explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to seek professional support for a variety of reasons. Officers, who have been trained to act independently and maintain constant emotional control, may view the need for support services as a sign of personal weakness. Even if they recognize that they would benefit from it.”
Police officers must get the help they need.
We all want to believe most cops are good, many of them as brokenhearted as we are when they see what is happening. If that’s true that most are good, then they outnumber the bad guys whose actions harm them as well. I get why they may be afraid to stand up to the others, but enabling them can’t be the answer. It makes them part of a toxic environment that could not exist without their cooperation or their silence.
One thing I’ve learned is, with all the fake videos and misinformation floating around, we need to fact check. A lot of people don’t bother. They pretty much parrot what everyone else is drilling into their brain. If you don’t have a mind of your own, you can easily get lost in all the bullshit. That’s why we are where we are today.
Lucky for me, I stubbornly decided, many, many years ago, to follow my heart. To determine what I believed based on my experience — not what others told me. I’ve wanted no part of the hateful, self-righteous, self-entitled anger that crushed my spirit almost every damn day, growing up. It was like a poison doled out to everyone in the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t drink it.
The sun rises with
Foreboding crow caws,
While the day brings
Sirens of uncertainty.
Well, for the lilac pansies,
And the daffodils…
Oh, and the tulips in all colors,
Beautiful and bold.
We see the sun
From behind the glass.
We hear the rain.
Upstairs, there is music.
Below we talk like survivors
Of dystopian madness
Taking shelter in a cave.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Are you?”
The days are longer.
Open windows let in the breeze.
Outside, the trees are tall and proud.
With all their flowers,
We are powerless,
Our illusion of safety
Violated once more.
Oh, but the birds chirp in a frenzy!
The earth is alive!
We need to laugh and
Everything is tragic
But some have no one to talk to,
Little, if anything, to eat,
No way to get well,
And nowhere to hide.
Others rise to an occasion
They never could have fathomed,
Working toward their lifelong dream
With infinite empathy.
Does it wreak desolation?
We don’t even know the extent
Of how harsh life can be.
People die for greed.
Dreaded knock on the door now.
No one should come here—
Maybe not for a while.
Behind masked faces.
Down the stairwells then,
One flight at a time,
I go beyond the door,
Where the world is.
Experience it once more,
For a short time.
The sun is bright
Across a vivid blue sky.
There’s the scent of fresh-cut grass
And the sweet caress of the wind.
It’s like a summer day
With pillowy clouds
The world’s magnificent beauty.
Then it’s back to the safe place.
Do you have one of those?
A safe place to be?
I hope you do.
Because the stars are still there at night,
Like the glorious moon.
I watch them as I hope
Things get better.
Like they always did before,
At least, for a little while.
“How Are You Feeling These Days” poem by Kyrian Lyndon