About ten years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I’m not here anymore. Like a bucket list. It included living long enough to hug my grandchildren. It also included “saving a life.” At the time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to save a life since I’m not a medical professional and I’m not very strong. But I now realize that “saving a life” doesn’t require a dramatic gesture to prevent someone’s imminent death. It’s also helping people feel hope, easing their pain, and supporting their path with dignity. This isn’t very hard to do.
Black Lives Matter demonstrations and conversations call into question America’s commitment to its values. They speak to the continuing oppression of important people in my life, including my son Gabe. So much has been written about this and so expertly, I couldn’t possibly do better.
But I do have a story that seems especially relevant right now.
Somebody has been compared to Marie Antoinette recently for announcing she would remodel the White House Rose Garden during a national crisis. And that reminds me of cakes….
Happy Bastille Day 🙂 a reminder of the 1789 rebellion staged at the infamous prison, which entered in the French Revolution and ended the French monarchy. France’s path to freedom from tyranny wasn’t easy — the guillotine, the Reign of Terror, Napoleon, financial collapse — but the French eventually got democracy, and now we can celebrate with mussels meuniere and tarte tatin.
This period of protest and national dialogue should make me feel hopeful but, so far, it makes me more despairing. It reminds me of the racism my son, Gabe, has endured over the years in our “liberal” Bay Area community. It reminds me of the anger I feel for the times I have tried to talk about racial issues and gotten the message that I should move on. It reminds me of the shame I feel for the times I could have done something and didn’t.
I see a lot of news articles lately that feature lists of books we could be reading right now. Many feature dystopian novels, heavy classics and slogs through history. Some are books you think you should have read by now or those that will remind you of your worst fears. The Plague. War and Peace. Steven King. Cormac McCarthy. Thucydides.
I don’t want to read that stuff right now, and, for many of us, it’s hard to read anything. People talk about feeling too distracted by worries and the barrage of news. We are slowed down by over-eating, the world’s lowered expectations of us, and an unfamiliar kindness toward ourselves.
I can be annoying with my opinions, which I have convinced myself are excellent even though I suspect they probably sometimes aren’t. For example, I sometimes get in trouble on the subject of religion. Imagine that. And this is a subject that seems to be coming up a lot in conversation these days.
I cried yesterday but not for the reason I would have predicted. To put my crying in context, I have been traveling nonstop for four years partly for the kindness and connection I discover in other places. I can find these things here at home. It’s just easier to find them in places that are new and different, where I have to pay more attention. And, honestly, it’s easier where the dominant feeling is a little softer than my American culture these days. (Something like that….I was supposed to be in Saudi Arabia today).