It’s been a hard week to be a human
I look at the picture of a smiling Jo Cox and all I can do is be witness to my heart bursting at the thought that her husband and children won’t get to see that smile in real life any more. She will now become a collection of memories, of what she has done in service of her constituents, for the rights of the people she served, for what she stood. But ultimately, a family no longer gets to share the everyday moments with a person they treasure.
It’s been a hard week to be a human. At leat that’s how I feel. It’s a full body experience, as well: sometimes it makes me feel sick to my stomach, and other times it’s somewhere between a headache and heartache. The world just feels like it’s throwing us its most ugly side, from every corner, at every moment. As if Christina’s Grimmie’s murder in Orlando on Friday night wasn’t enough, there was the terror of Saturday night at the Pulse nightclub which has shocked and saddened the world and the LGBT community. The beautiful game of football being played out in France for the European Championships was marred by violence, tear gas, and crowd stampedes prompted by hooligans in balaclavas and fighting gloves. Against the political backdrops in both the UK and the US, there was more hatred and more fear when Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death on Thursday as she held a regular meeting with her local constituents. Within the mix of these tragedies that were created and controlled by people, there was one more that was equally saddening: the death of the 2-year-old boy at Disney World after he was attacked by an alligator. In nearly all of these situations, the hard part is the quick and irrevocable finality of a person’s potential being stopped in its tracks, never to get a second chance.
Earlier this week, it was easy to be in the UK and criticise the US for its lack of gun control laws. The tragedy in Orlando begged again the question – how can people have such easy and immediate access to firearms and weapons that can so quickly steal life? But then, less than a week later, on a smaller but no less important scale, a gun and knife carried out that exact same thievery here in the UK, where the majority of the police force don’t even carry guns. It’s not then about the weapon, but about the underlying emotions of hatred, inhumanity, and disconnection from the value of life that is the issue.
How do people become so unstable to forget that life – all life, regardless of a person’s skin colour, or religious or sexual preferences – is precious? Surely no value or belief can hold more importance than that. That mentally unhealthy people harbour and hide their thoughts from others is frightening. Loneliness and isolation are scary concepts but ones that we can surely do something about.
I stayed up late on Thursday reading the heartbreaking and overwhelming news of Jo Cox’s death, until I could no longer breathe through my nose because of being stuffed up with snot, until my eyes couldn’t see clearly from being clouded with tears. Feeling unsure about what I can do to make a difference to the world, to create societies where openness overrules ideological certainty, love wins over hate, and connection prevails over disconnection. I want to say that it’s about trusting the process, trusting that good will win, but that feels to me too passive. The trust needs an action-oriented sidekick, but what is it?
The issues with gun control, the US election and the EU referendum, immigration – I know they’re complex. One thing does seem clear: we need change that helps us all identify with and support people who are suffering, who are feeling that the only option for them is to steal life from someone else, who act from a place of fear, hate, or misunderstanding.
I think about neuroscience, and the different parts of our brain. For many at the moment, reason seems to be overridden by fear, the reptilian brain not allowing the neocortex to flourish. The brain of the alligator that defends territory, acts in aggression, and whose dominance doesn’t forgive even an innocent toddler.
For all the families and friends who have been affected by the various tragedies this week, making sense of why their loved ones were taken too soon must feel an impossible puzzle with no good answer. How can we help each other to live in a way that allows all humans to feel valued, recognised, and rewarded for having meaning? Crucially, how can we do it more quickly? I’m not sure how many weeks like this one I can take. It feels like a scene being played out on the world’s stage, for humanity to wrestle itself from the vice grip of fear, hate, and bigotry. I’m rooting for humanity, but being a cheerleader on the sidelines no longer feels enough. I know I’m not alone in this thinking, and would love to hear what actions you’re taking this week to move us toward that gentler, more kind society that we crave. I’d love to join you.