The recent shooting of two Indian men in Olathe, KS happened not far from the church my parents attend. On Sunday, an Indian man at their church delivered the week’s sermon. He told thousands of listeners that this incident helped him realize how he had not allowed compassion for his Muslim, Black, LGBTQ, and LatinX brothers and sisters to run deep enough.
That was a courageous thing to say.
It never fails to surprise me how easily people, including myself, believe in the fantasy of their own safety when they are not being specifically targeted. Because the reality is this: if any of us are vulnerable to abuse by power, we are ALL vulnerable to abuse by power.
Every single day I wake up and try to remind myself, “we belong to each other”. This isn’t a fluffy, rainbows, and kittens, and warm hugs type of sentiment either. It’s hard work to believe in this idea day in and day out. Because for me, it not only includes the vulnerable and oppressed, but also the difficult people – i.e. the person who told me to burn in hell last month, some of the scary people in Washington right now, the unapologetically bigoted man my friend is married to, that super bitchy mom at the playground last week, and even this troubled soul who shot two innocent men, and one brave bystander.
After learning about this shooting, I spent some days feeling enraged with a whole host of things. (Trump, the NRA, Breitbart, those dumb red hats – all the usual suspects). And while I do believe that there is a time and a place for appropriate anger, I also keep remembering that after we register that anger, we have to dig deeper than the anger before we figure out how to respond.
We have to grieve. We have to hold this broken open world in our broken open hearts.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla lost his life because of fear and ignorance. There is nothing more grievous than that. I think of his mother almost everyday.
But there is something else equally grievous. The man who shot him was taught – somewhere along the way – to fear and hate people that don’t look or act like him. I also think of his mother almost everyday.
When we belong to each other, it hurts a little. It’s hard, and it’s clumsy. We try to stand with the people who we see are suffering, but we make mistakes. We get scared. We say the wrong things. We think the wrong things. We have good intentions, but we wind up demonizing one group of people in order to protect another. And then, if we’re disciplined enough, we are able to remember: “oh, these people I’m so afraid of are also my brothers and sisters”. And we are humbled.
ON THE INSIDE.
What we do with that humility is the next step. I don’t know about you, but I’m still constantly working it out over here, without a lot of clear answers yet. Sometimes that humility looks like you might imagine: contrite, curious, conciliatory. Other times it looks like telling someone I love that their words and attitudes don’t square up with what they say they believe, while being simultaneously willing to hear the same kind of feedback about myself.
It’s messy. It’s hard. But it’s the path I keep climbing back onto even when I’ve fallen off for a bit. And each time I climb back on, I feel better. My eyes, ears, and heart feel clearer, and I start thinking about how to address the pain in this world, rather than escalating it any further.