The Worst Disease

(originally published on FB, July 2013)

I’m saddened by the verdict in the Martin trial.  I am saddened by the death of Cory Monteith.  Although the death of another Hollywood-type may seem like it’s unimportant compared to yet another social injustice – I see the two as related. Not just because they were once both some mother’s baby, mothers whonever expected to bury their sons.  Not just because, in the end, we’ll never truly know what happened in their last moments, because the people who can tell us either won’t or can’t share the truth of those moments.  Not just because there were a million moments when a different choice here or there may have made it turn out differently.

In both cases, young men lost their lives because somewhere along the line our society has become obsessed with the wrong things:  holding power over each other, and fearing each other instead of seeing each other as equals and as mirrors of ourselves; obsessed with finding validation and assurance of our worth as humans from outside ourselves and believing that we need to be almost orgasmically joyous all the time, instead of understanding that we cannot accept love from without until we accept it from within, we cannot be happy with what we do until we accept ourselves as we are, and that peace and contentment are joyful and awe-inspiring, and wonder-full. 

These two young men were sold a bill of goods by society.  One had everything going forhim, the other had little – but both of them had people who loved them, and who mourn their loss.  And both of them are dead, not because their bodies were diseased, but because our society is diseased with hatred.  Self-hatred.  Even the man who killed Treyvon Martin so hated himself that he couldn’t see his own humanity in another person, so feared his own humanity that he could not connect with the mercy in himself.  

We must find compassion for each other.  We must find compassion even for those wedon’t agree with, even for Martin’s killer, who is, although he may not realize it, driven by fear.  Even for the jury members, who were driven to a poor choice and a miscarriage of justice, by fear and by years of being told to fear and entire race of human beings. 

We must find compassion for ourselves each time we make a poor choice, or fear to make the choice we really believe in.  We must find compassion for the angry people who can see no hope and end up in situations that often end tragically.  We must find compassion for those whose hopelessness may seem at first blush to be self-indulgent, but is very real and may be eating them up inside.  We must find compassion for ourselves as a society. 

We must find compassion for ourselves, when we are ourselves are the angry ones, the frustrating ones, the fearful, or self-indulgent, easily mislead or despairing ones.

We must not give up. We must see past the glitz and the anger of moments like this and see the individuals who are losing their lives. We must be compassionate and try to recall that although Cory and Treyvon seem so very different, both of these young men were victims of a society that glorifies flawed things, and vilifies neutral things, simplifies complex things.  It all seems so easy, so lucrative, so appealing in the moment – but it’s a lie, an illusion, and we buy into it at our collective peril.  We separate it into neat little categories like “It’s a race thing” or “It’s these stupid actors” at our peril.  If we do not see the underlying ties that bind these very toxic issues together, then we only ever see and address the symptoms of the disease.  It is not that the symptoms are not real, serious and destructive.  It is that if the root disease is left untreated, new and other destructive symptoms will continue to emerge.  

Look, look closely, look deeply – look into almost every single dividing issue – the underlying disease is almost always fear.

Let us be courageous, friends.  The next time you feel yourself suffused with anger – ask yourself why… what is it that you fear you stand to lose that a particular moment is making you angry?  What it is that you see in someone else that angers you?  Is it something you dislike in yourself?  Something that reminds you of someone who once harmed you and reminds you of the pain you sustained and fear to experience again? Do they have the potential to take something of value from you? Shine the light on your anger, and you may well discover that it is – like almost any fight/flight response, rooted in fear.   While fighting to protect yourself may be an appropriate response, where there is fear, there is almost always an opportunity for compassion, if only towards yourself for feeling fear and anger.

And in the end, is there really anything more courageous than compassion in the face of fear?  To meet a potential threat not with a bigger and badder threat, but with a willingness to be vulnerable and to trust in your own strength and resilience to sustain and protect you?  

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