How can we find optimism after this week’s tragedies?
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Yesterday, my friend Lester joked on Facebook that he is going to call in to work tomorrow and say this:
“Hi! I’m staying home today because I’m afraid to drive to work out of fear that I’ll be pulled over by a police officer and shot to death when complying with the officer’s orders. I’ll be back when all of this blows over.”
I was struck by his funny insight and how sad the situation had become. Like I’m sure many people, I was unable to get all that much done yesterday because of this tragedy. But I got through the day, hugged my boyfriend extra hard and went to bed hoping for a new day. And then Dallas.
Waking up to tragic news again (AGAIN!) was utterly devastating.
I couldn’t believe it. I lay in bed, reading the news, and really not understanding how I was supposed to get on with everything today. And then, by some miracle, I saw Kurt Vonnegut’s words:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness.”
I almost cried when I read that.
It was exactly what I needed to see this morning, and the sentiment I have thankfully been able to carry with me throughout the day as more anger and tears fill the world this week.
Deep down, even on the most difficult of days, I am an optimist. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that more of us want to do good than bad. I believe in justice and equality and I believe that most of my fellow human beings truly care about these things too.
But it’s been really impossible to feel that way this week. With one horrendous tragedy after another, I felt hopeless and sad for the state of our country, and the world, today. Because it’s not just #BlackLivesMatter at home, but Istanbul abroad too. It’s not just a shooting in a gay club or an elementary school, it’s the fact that none of these things have driven us to do enough to reduce the chances of this happening again.
The human being in me is lost at what I, personally, can do here. I can shout on social media the way so many of my friends are doing (and there’s nothing wrong with that) and I can contact my local representatives as Beyoncé urges us to do.
And you can certainly bet that come November 2016, I will be casting my vote for Hillary Clinton – a candidate who isn’t afraid to stand with #BlackLivesMatter while also mourning the loss of officers lives this morning. Instead of, you know, the orange a**hole who so far hasn’t even had the guts say the names Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. Not that he’d ever acknowledge that black lives matter, anyway. It doesn’t exactly fit in with his racist agenda.
As challenging as it is for me to retain my optimism this week, now more than ever I know that I really, really need to.
It helps to watch people like The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah telling the truth: that being pro-Black Lives Matter doesn’t make you anti-police.
It helps to see one of my closest friends, Chris, remind me of the importance of empathy. Not just today, but every damn day:
“Empathy is my weapon of choice. If everyone used that weapon first, none of this kind of stuff would happen. Think on that for a moment, if you will. Not just in terms of gun violence on either side of the badge, but in every single interaction in your day to day life.”
It helps when one of my writer friends, Maura Hernandez, reminds me of what I can do today to keep hope alive:
“Do something kind today for someone completely out of the blue. Can be someone you know or a total stranger. But the world needs more kindness right now and it starts with each one of us.”
It’s not much, but it helps.
In the meantime, I am going to hug everyone that I can extra hard tonight too, and hope for a happier tomorrow.
Optimism and happiness are difficult in times like this, but it’s the only way to keep us all sane. Love for my fellow man may feel almost impossible but it’s the choice I have to make. I’ll leave you here with the worse words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s never forget them, even when darkness seems to be all around us every day.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
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