He Is Dead
Lost and Found Among the “Hurting”
I lost my compassion last week. I misplaced it at CNN.com, MSNBC.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Facebook.com, or Slate.com. My compassion disappeared as Ferguson was set afire in response to “Burn this bitch down.” The flames, looting, fists, and fury set my own psyche afire. Because I had watched the video of the store manager roughed up when he protested the theft of Cigarillos, I decided that the gunshots that rang out a short while later were just desserts. I pooh-poohed the “gentle giant” quote when I saw a man get shoved by someone who was for sure a giant, and for sure not “gentle.”
I was angry and I still am. I don’t know what happened the night in Ferguson when Michael Brown died. I don’t know what evidence the grand jury heard. I don’t think anyone knows for sure what took place, except two people: Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. Only one lives to tell his story.
I’m angry that Ferguson burned. I’m angry that racism continues. I’m angry that being a young black male is so dangerous. I’m angry that young black men are feared and accused far too often because of who they are: young black men. I’m angry that the societal pressures they endure reinforce and perpetuate so many negative stereotypes.
I was so angry last week. Of course, I was certain my anger was righteous. I felt the keen edge of crime and punishment and was judge and jury all on my own. I was disgusted by what I saw, what I read, what I heard.
In my anger, dismay, and disgust, I became someone “other” than my real self. Anger, righteous or not, indignation, righteous or not, does that. Being jury and judge and determining just desserts does that.
I maintained that anger, dismay, and disgust for several hours Monday and into Tuesday. Midday on Tuesday, at a tea shop in town, where I met some friends, I found what I had lost: my compassion. One woman teaches biology at a local college. Earlier that day, she deviated from her lesson plan and showed videos. She asked the students why she was showing videos (other than being the coolest teacher ever). She told them she knew they were hurting that Tuesday morning after the Ferguson decision, the Ferguson burning. They needed something to lighten their day. She didn’t specify for what reason they were hurting. She didn’t specify on which side of the decision any of them sat. She simply noted that they were hurting. She also wanted them to know that although the world can be quite dark at times, some really, nice, cool folks are doing creative, fun things, and they can, too.
She also shared with me that she knows a relative of someone who was murdered a few weeks ago in our area. Some have surmised that he was a drug dealer who was shot for owing money. The facts aren’t all in and the details of the crime aren’t known, but one thing is known: He is dead. Regardless of on what side the victim sat or on which side his relative sits, he’s dead and she’s hurting.
My missing compassion showed up when I heard “She’s hurting.” I realized I had forgotten something more important than Ferguson burning, the looting, the grand jury, or Officer Wilson’s claim that he acted in self-defense. I forgot about people hurting. I forgot that Michael Brown is dead. I forgot that his mother buried her son. I forgot that his father and stepfather buried their son. I forgot that parents, relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors were hurting. I forgot that they buried Michael Brown. I forgot that regardless of what happened on that night in Ferguson, it ended with a young black man bleeding and dead in the street.
Just desserts don’t mean a thing when that dessert leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth.
“They’re hurting.” “She’s hurting.”
Hearing those words erased the images of fires and broken glass, the words decrying the decision, the anger, and the despair.
A son, a relative, a friend, a student: He’s dead. And he is mourned because he was loved.
I have loved less-than-perfect people, and so have you. I have mourned less-than-perfect people, and so have you. When I lost my compassion for those few days, I also lost a bit of my humanity. I lost a bit of my heart.
I am grateful for the words that helped me find my compassion and my heart: “She’s hurting.” “They’re hurting.”
When people are hurting, rather than sit in judgment, rather than decry their actions, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we could step up and do whatever we can to stop the pain, stop the hurting?
The following links are to some of the videos my friend showed post-Ferguson—to help ease the “hurting.”