There’s a life changing fact I learned in therapy years ago: Two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. Understanding this reduces anxiety.
Case in point? It’s true that we’re angry at Officer Derek Chauvin — a name that sounds like a Victor Hugo novel character, but in fact he’s the apparent villain from our current real-life nightmare — and it’s true that we desperately hope for a better tomorrow. Those two truths are called a dialectic. (Hint: The word “and” is the ticket for synthesizing two truths.)
Just when you think a pandemic is the worst thing to happen in our lifetime, George Floyd woke up on Memorial Day and died later that day during his interaction with the above-mentioned police officer. (I won’t mention his name again, yet I’ll always remember the name of George Floyd.)
Big cities in America are going berserk. Pent-up “pandemicans” are pouring out of their homes to decry, indignantly and justifiably, that Black Lives Matter. It’s devastating that it took the inhumane loss of George Floyd’s life to bring this deserved global attention to the still-present black condition in America. Unfortunately, destroying our own cities isn’t the most effective way to get that point across, yet people are fed up. Suddenly the pandemic feels so passé.
If the most painful times in our lives were scenes in a movie you’d never need a different soundtrack other than the song “What’s Up” by the 4 Non Blondes for validating our fear or anger (or both). You know the one. It was played on tape decks in the ‘90s. Now it’s a YouTube video with over 845 million views; the one where Linda Perry sings, “And I scream at the top of my lungs, what’s goin’ on?”
Seriously, what’s up with 2020? We could easily play the song again today while we see images on the news of American cities burning, mass looting, and the peaceful CNN correspondent, Omar Jimenez, and his camera crew getting handcuffed in Minnesota — with the bizarre image of the still-rolling camera laying sideways on the asphalt.
The cameraman was forced by police to set it down on the street and it continued filming the state patrolman, defying gravity, standing sideways — his boots glued to the left side of our screens — with plumes of grey smoke and orange fire burning behind a similarly tipped-on-its-side Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits burgundy awning (which appears to be melting from the flame’s heat).
In the best of times many of us deal with some anxiety. Is there anyone left in the world now who doesn’t? Many of us have God in our lives, many of us don’t. Many of us are turning to God for the first time to dampen our terror (and maybe find some peace). Believers aren’t shocked at world events — maybe a bit surprised that they’re happening so soon — but not shocked. What do the historians think? Do they think, “Well, our parents and grandparents rebuilt after World War II. We can do it again.”
Is that what they think? Do any of us believe we can? Did they believe they could?
How did war survivors rebuild their cities? Their lives? How did they find inner peace again? Winston Churchill gets most of the credit, at least for England, during and after the destruction. He came to the rescue of his beloved Great Britain (or as the anthem “Jerusalem” calls it, England’s pleasant pastures) fortifying his fellow citizen’s hopes, giving them courage. It’s as though he put his strong, supportive hand on the collective shoulder of his nation, broadcasting on home radios, “In the days to come the British and American peoples will for their own safety and for the good of all walk together side by side in majesty, in justice and in peace.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have a Churchill in office now to assuage our fears and leaven us with peace. Yet his words are still true today. So, let’s read yet one more of his rallying cries, “Do not let us speak of darker days; let us rather speak of sterner days. These are not dark days, these are great days, the greatest days that our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”
If we question that there are “great days ahead” let us consider as many seemingly opposite truths as we can. Write them down on paper if you must. We can be justifiably grief-stricken and enraged about the passing of George Floyd and we can band together effectively to rebuild. We can feel scared about the escalating protests and damage to our cities and feel proud of the many small wins we’re making in our homes and communities — alone or with others. Waking up to face another day is a win. Choosing effective ways to deal with our strong emotions is a win.
Have hope. It is possible for us to “walk together side by side in majesty, in justice and in peace,” hopefully six feet apart. We first need to imagine we can. That’s the first step. The second step is to pause before we act for justice and peace, because there are consequences to rashness.
It takes time to rebuild a city and yet cities can be rebuilt.
Gwendolyn Taylor Soper writes commentaries about basic human rights and travel. She lives in Spring City, Utah.