So now what?

I continue to struggle with recent events – mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, anti-Asian hate crimes, voter suppression campaigns in 43 states, hauling a Black female legislator out of the Georgia State House in handcuffs. This is a mental collage that is dark, and chaotic, and heavy. This is not what I want as the backdrop for my days. This is not what I want as the backdrop for anyone’s days. What can I do?

I am tired of talking about all of this stuff, tired of reading books, tired of watching videos, tired of writing letters and filling out petitions. But what else is there at this point? Short of insurrection, short of lawlessness, what else is there? The radical right is forming militias, arming themselves, stockpiling weapons and canned goods, building shelters. That’s not my gig, and I’m not willing to be defined by fear. I’m not willing to be defined by hate, although some of my resistance is about anger. Anger is a wonderful motivator, actually, but I can’t stay there forever (at least not without changing the emoticon for even a short while).

So, again, I ask…what can I do? I want to say that I can live intentionally, practicing and demonstrating the values, the change, I want to see. OK, that’s great, but I feel as though I am digging an escape tunnel with a plastic spork. Is frustration and fatigue valid justification for resignation? In my mind, I think not, but in my body…in my heart…I am not so sure. Hope is hard. And I am tired.

So, yet again…what can I do? I really have no answers, although my linear-tending mind wants to come up with multi-level plan that engages many resources and has many goals but essentially does…nothing. Legislation, nor speech, nor books nor films nor empirical data will change the minds of others. This I know. Singing peace songs, old and new, will not change the minds of others. Those may coalesce the energy of like-minded people, but I don’t need to change their minds – we are all singing in the same choir. Standing in my integrity is essential, but, in truth, that seems largely ineffective when the status quo has no motivation toward integrity.

I have always heard that when you are lost in the forest, stay still and someone will find you. Hmmm. That may be true sometimes, but there are other times when it hasn’t worked out quite so neatly. The story doesn’t always have a happy ending, there is not always a tearful and grateful reunion with the lost. Further, there is not always someone looking for the lost…if you were invisible beforehand, and disappear, your loss is not apparent.

In so many ways, we are lost, and in so many ways there is no one looking for us. There is no one looking for an America that many of us have never dreamed, and we are searching for that dream. During the Civil Rights era, there was a dream eloquently articulated, and it sustained the movement toward equality, equity, fairness, compassion. Those who resisted that dream had to do everything they could to kill it, and they killed the messenger, the prophet, the voice of what could be. The subsequent onslaught of their attempts to kill that dream continue even today, as of this writing. That battle is waged in the halls of many State Houses, the nation’s Capitol, and corporate board rooms. The effort is massive, and concerted. The dreamers are scattered, fragmented, and disheartened.

Those of us who can must still take heart in the original dream, keep our eyes on the prize. That doesn’t mean invariable loyalty to the original words, but it does mean allegiance to the root of the dream – the original, albeity short-sighted – promise of the country: that we are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (and happiness can be debated later in the context of utilitarianism). However one chooses to interpret that, it seems we cannot move very far from the obvious intent of that sentiment – the common good. Not the common death, or the common evil, or the common want. The common good.

In order to secure the common good, you have to assume there is a contract between all of us toward that end. That involves unpleasant things like paying taxes, like military service, like voluntary limitations on certain of our rights and liberties. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution does it say that we’re entitled to do whatever we want to do (no matter how many of those words begin with a w). That’s not Constitutional law, that’s natural law – organic life forms want to be free, and usually they will accomplish that by whatever means are necessary. When sentient life forms are sharing a finite space, we’ve got to find some way to manage our circumstances, to avoid stepping all over each other, to share space. Ultimately, that is government.

It’s government, until…it ceases to govern and begins to oppress. Then what? We’re supposed to be a representative republic, so we elect people who share our views and will grow and develop the governmental systems that we support. When that doesn’t happen, there’s a problem, and that’s where we are now – we have a problem. A failure to communicate. We’re low on dilythium crystals, and the matter and the anti-matter are gonna mix and go boom. The boom is not far away. The ground is welling, there are earthquake clusters, the wildlife is beginning to stampede. There are vents, where steam escapes, but we all know there is a smoldering, bubbling, boiling lake of molten rock rising from below the surface. And once it gets to a certain point, it will erupt and nothing will hold it. Nothing.

Can we ever achieve peace? Maybe not entirely, because we are humans, formed out of the dust of the massive effusion that created the planets. We are explosive by nature, I believe. I’m not entirely sure where the conquering urge comes from, but I know that it winds up being counter-productive in the long run. Perhaps we’re not supposed to make sense, only make more energy. That’s probably way above my pay grade.

Regardless, I am wondering if I should be about the goal of peace, of living in harmony, but simply about the goal of living? Living is not as easy as it sounds. Our physical bodies are under siege from all manner of toxins, visible and invisible. Our inner spirits are likewise under siege from various threats, deniable and undeniable. Poison can take the form of tangible substances, but also the spoken word, rhetoric, other amorphous and intangible sources. Those sources are things like racism, homophobia, sexism and other biases stemming from the irrational root causes of hatred, inadequacy, fear. On some levels, there is no defense against those once they have taken root. Those are true viral infections, always changing form, always mutating, nearly impossible to destroy entirely. Perhaps the only real way to overcome is by outlasting, by refusing to succumb, by surviving at all.

Many of us contend that mere survival is not enough, that survival is not equivalent to living, to thriving, to have a high quality of life. In certain contexts, perhaps that is true. Or perhaps our perspective is focused on creature comforts and goods and conspicuous consumption. Perhaps we have lost sight of how to enjoy the simpler things? Perhaps we have become addicted to ur consumer lifestyles, the ease of artificial means to interact with the natural world, the real world. We can’t enjoy the hot weather season without air-conditioners in certain parts of the planet, we can’t enjoy sustenance without refrigeration and utensils. I’m not arguing for a return to primitivism, just pointing out that we have a lot of conditions for what we define as living these days.

We need to restore our power.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

2 thoughts on “So now what?

  1. I think sometimes its easy to forget how important being you and letting people see that, is. Yes, it’s not as instantly powerful as a protest or as obviously effective as new laws but it’s powerful in a quiet way. It can tear down preconceived ideas by showing others the person that no amount of protests can ever do.
    The biggest evil that allows people to get away with hate is the power to turn individuals into some blanket monster that we can fill with all the things we fear or lack. Let them see a real person again and it’s much harder to put their fears on that person.
    Changing laws can tell people what they can and can’t do but showing people that there’s more to others than they think there is can change what they choose to do. It’s slow and hard and can feel like doing nothing or even slipping back but then, deep things don’t change fast.

    As for the difference between surviving and thriving, maybe it’s more a question of how we define thriving? Is thriving about what we have or is it about having the time and freedom to stop and look round, breath and enjoy being part of the world. It’s again something that still survives although it’s quieter than the loud rush of modern action. Like eating a strong curry – you have so much of the strong flavour that all others are masked and seem bland.


    1. Thank you so much for commenting. I really appreciated the “blanket monster” image. Also, I’m holding this right now…” It’s again something that still survives although it’s quieter than the loud rush of modern action.” You remind me that a small, still voice within that persists is more the heart of me than shouting my convictions at people who can’t hear. Thank you!


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