Just before I went to bed last night I learned about the unjustified execution of Philando Castille who was shot five times and killed by a police officer just 45 minutes North of my parents home where we are currently visiting. This horrid event is the second unjustified murder of a black man by a police officer in 24 hours time and the 559th murder of a black man at the hands of a police officer in 2016. At 3am while nursing my daughter back to sleep I learned that Castille's four year old daughter had witnessed the whole event from the back seat and then watched her mother be placed in handcuffs...as I read the transcript (because my heart couldn't bare to watch the video) my soul was set afire. I couldn't sleep. How could I sleep? My heart is breaking and my mind was spinning.
Knowing that if it were me and my husband and my child in that car, that this would NEVER have happened because of the paleness of our skin.
What do I do?
How do we act?
How can we respond?
When do we collectively stand up and say enough is enough?
I sat up racking my brain...
what is the root of ALL of this violence?
If we find the root can we fix the problem?
How can we teach each other to listen, to hear, to love one another...How?
Yesterday my family and I took a trip to Fort Snelling, an 1800 army bunker which never saw a battle but still stands today as a living history museum. Within thirty minutes of arriving we were invited to watch an artillery demonstration as costumed soldiers demonstrated loading and firing their muskets. As I watched these men load and fire, march and retreat, I cringed knowing my son was sitting next to me. I wondered what could be going through his head? Why has my mommy brought me here to watch people load and fire guns, the thing she loathes more than anything else in the world?
I said nothing...not sure what to say, or how to justify why this demonstration was important for us to witness. After the firing demonstration ended the soldiers invited the many children to come learn how to march...seeing all the kids fall in line I asked Gunnar if he wanted to join. He agreed as long as I came with...but two steps in something in his head said No...and he fell out of line and said "mommy I don't want to do this. This is violence, we don't like violence right mommy?"
"Right Gunnar, that's right."
And he walked away.
My heart swelled.
Yes! I silently cheered.
And then we visited the commanding officers kitchen where a woman was teaching us how women prepared meals out of a hearth kitchen. We were fascinated as we watched her lay hot coals on top of a pot of rice and cheered when she stoked the fire back to a roar. I admired the way this woman chose to speak to us. Never undermining the intense labor these women had to endure but acknowledging that the soldier and officers wives could take a break every now and then to enjoy time with their children or to go for a walk, but the two female slaves that Snelling illegally kept never could. "We must tell their story, its important we tell their story" she reiterated.
I'm so glad she said that. Gunnar instantly made a reference to Hamilton... "it's like 'who lives who dies who tells you story' like Eliza tells Hamilton's story, right mommy? We should tell the story of the slaves who weren't free just like Eliza tells Hamilton's story, right mommy?"
"Right Gunnar, that's right."
My heart swelled again...
YES! I silently cheered again...
And as I recalled this trip in the wee hours of the night last night I thought about how stupid the soldiers looked as they practiced their methods of intimidation...and how empowering the words of the woman in the kitchen had been. I thought about it a lot...and I realized there is a root to the world's violence and it is a disease that has plagued our planet since the birth of human kind. Overt masculinity and the fear of losing power. That's it...
That is the root of all of the mass shootings, of the police brutality, of this countries sick obsession with the second amendment, with every war that has been fought, with every gun that has been fired. And when I say overt masculinity I don't mean to exclude women...many women have been taught the ways of masculinity through war fare and through domestic and cyclical abuse.
We cannot fix our broken world as long as we continue to teach our sons and daughters that violence and methods of intimidation are the only way to create real change.
Last night before I learned of the events in St.Paul, my mother and I watched "Suffragette." And at a key point in the movie an investigator asks the lead character why she has resorted to violence and she exclaims "We break windows, we burn things. Cause war's the only thing men listen to! Cause you've beaten us and betrayed us and there's nothing left! What are you gonna do? Lock us all up? We're in every home, we're half the human race, you can't stop us all."
The world we live in tells us that WAR and VIOLENCE are the only ways to be heard. If we continue to teach our sons to "man up" this world will only continue to see war. If we continue to teach our children to fear those who are different from us, we will only continue to see war.
Today Margot brought me a book to read that Nana had purchased on her trip to Gettysburg called "Under the Quilt of Night" a story about the underground railroad and how slaves learned to travel by the protective dark quilt of the night sky. Streams fell down my face as I read the words on the last page, when the young girl finally reaches the North:
I take a deep breath
and when I let go
my voice flies up in a song.
My own song
of running in sunshine
and dancing through fields.
I'll jump every fence in my way."
My heart sank as I thought about the misconception of that freedom she rejoices in. That "Freedom" our black brothers and sisters have been promised since the Civil War, and again during the Civil Rights Movement, but still STILL have not fully seen. Because every night they have to tuck their children in at night in fear that the next day a police officer or civilian or whomever might mistake them for something they are not, simply because of the color of their skin. We cannot end the discussion with the end of slavery...we cannot end the conversation with the end of segregation...there is still so much work to be done to ensure that true Freedom.
As we aptly read in a chapter in Roald Dahl's The BFG tonight "But human beans is squishing each other all the time,' the BFG said. 'Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kind...They is shootling guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other's heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans."
We have to change the rhetoric, we have to rewrite this story...
Neither of these books are new...these stories have been told before and they will continue to be told until we put our heads together and find a way to make it stop. I cannot wait for laws, though I will work and hope that they will change, if we wait for laws we could be waiting forever. I have seen racism, prejudice and misconceptions melt away before my eyes...I know it is possible. It happens when we make connections, when we hear each others stories, when we meet face to face. I believe we can win this war against hate but it will take more than our outrage on social media, it will take more than the words in this blog. It will take blood, sweat and tears. We cannot be idyl. We must take action now...
I have some ideas and I plan to take action. More on that soon...will you be ready to join me?