Compassion. Empathy. Kindness.
In a week such as this, it’s hard to remember that such things exist. In fact, the very lack of them is what has brought us here.
We teach people to treat pets with kindness. To understand that aggression is based in fear. To treat that fear with compassion. And that learning and growth comes from the path of least resistance, to give those that need to learn the space to expand their minds.
It seems teaching people to treat other people with the same consideration is far more difficult.
What if we stopped saying “other people”? What if we considered every individual around us to be a part of us and us, them? What if we truly took to heart “E pluribus unum” — “out of many, one”?
As one, there are parts of us suffering, suffering for centuries. They have been silent and have been silenced. Another part of us is enraged, angry, hurtful. We knew the sickness was within us, but we ignored it. We shoved it down for so long that it grew unchecked in the darkness. We forgot about it. But for those close to the sickness, those affected by it, it’s never gone away. Now it’s fully in the light where we all can see, and we must deal with the disease, the hate that has invaded our entire being.
Unless we have experienced it ourselves, we cannot truly know the feeling of watching a woman clutch her purse more closely when we walk by simply because of the color of our skin. We cannot know the suspicious looks of police when we simply ride our bike down the street. We cannot know the fear of a mother who sends her son to the corner store not knowing if he will be accused, shot at, or murdered before he even makes it there.
But we can stand with those who do. Because we are one. We can fight the disease. We can empathize and sympathize and say, “I hear you. I see you.” We can acknowledge that the lights of a police cruiser instills dread in some hearts and not safety. We can validate emotions and say, “You’re right. This is wrong.”
Our police force, our government, and our institutions of democracy exist to protect and serve all of us equally. They are troops of civil servants. Each one took an oath to serve and protect, and they all need to be faithful to that oath. They all need to work for all of us. Because we are ONE.
We take a knee with the peaceful protestors who are asking for that which has been afforded to us through the constitution: justice for ALL. To live a life FREE from fear. To feel and be PROTECTED.
No one should live a life of fear. No one has to live a life of fear. We need to admit the disease, be held accountable for the sickness, and treat it.
Hate is a virus far more deadly than any pandemic we suffer from now.
We will not speak for you; we will stand beside you and give you breath while you shout it from the rooftops. We will not steal your thunder; we will have your back as you move forward. We mourn your loss, grieve your suffering, and will not abandon you. You are a part of US. We are ONE. And we will fight this disease.
Compassion. Empathy. Kindness.
These are the weapons we hold. They are not weak. They are the weapons of warriors who seek to build a world, not burn it down. They are the tools of construction, not destruction.
We cannot fight hate with hate. We cannot meet force with force. We need to join as one, and those who have suffered, lead the way. Tell us where to stand. Show us what you need. This virus will not be cured in a laboratory. It will not be eradicated through science. It will only be healed through US.
Stephanie Wescott is a freelance writer whose mission is to save animals’ lives through story. Although she hails from New England and resides in Southern California, you’ll mostly likely find her somewhere in between on the open road with her canine companion Tucker, searching for trails to hike and stories to tell. You can follow their tracks and read their tales at www.alltuckeredout.org.