The bickering and the babble are deafening.
The cries are numbing, the tears stifling.
What cuts through, however, are the stories behind the tears, or in this case, a compiliation of stories, like this one about the sorrows of the mothers of Black sons lost to the seemingly endless, constant violence.
Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. Blacks all around this country are this country are twice as likely to die in a firearm incident and three times as likely to be killed in a police encounter than whites.
"Our children are falling like flies on the street," says one mother. "What I would want to do," says another, "is go into the schools — all grade levels — and just talk to the young people about guns and what they’re supposed to be used for. Let them know that we can solve problems in a different kind of way — we don’t have to run to guns to solve the problem. I just wish the young people would grab onto that: You don’t have to kill somebody because of a disagreement. Because when you kill him, you kill the whole family."
Their children, their spouses, their communities, are left traumatized.
The echoes of the mothers' sorrowful cries reach not simply across the nation, but around the world at a time when we all seem to be mourning or trying to cope with the daily horrors around us ... or somehow, incredibly, oblivious to the pain. While we need to acknowledge, empathize with and respond to the reality faced by Black mothers for far, far too long, it's the universality of the grieving that needs to remind us, once again, that we are all together in this whiplash of suffering that's sadly become the norm. (And the world has clearly shrunk, and the barrage of headlines comes at us 24/7, so it's important to remember that there's still a world of beauty to cushion us.)
The parents of children lost to gun violence -- whether at Sandy Hook or Parkland, Columbine or Rigby, Idaho, or other school shootings that ring out with such dizzying frequency that we lose count -- have become commonplace horrors for which there are not enough tears, not enough prayers, and certainly not enough action.
There are also the silent cries of the more than 580,000 homeless people in this country, whose presence on our streets has become so ubiquitous that we have learned, sadly, to turn a blind eye. So too is the barrage of senseless, vicious hate crimes that's swelled over the past five to 10 years, from Charleston to Pittsburgh to San Antonio and beyond. Women, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Asians, gays and trans victims, and all the sorrow and all of the outrage hardly makes a dent in the litany of what we've seen.
The wailing of families seeking refuge at the Mexican border whose children have been locked up, separated for months, is a cry of desperation, adding to the global shrieks of refugees at camps around the planet. The staggering reality 80 million refugees and displaced people around the world, the terror that rages and has raged in Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria, Latin America and Venezuela, Mozambique and South Sudan and beyond is only likely to grow as gang and extremist violence, wars and starvation caused by climate-created disasters worsen.
The images of walls of fire in Australia, California and the Pacific Northwest, and of flooding in Indonesia, China, Afghanistan, the Philippines, come at us constantly. Each of these natural disasters results in hundreds, if not thousands, of displaced humans, along with deaths and serious injuries, wreaking havoc on the lives of families.
And, lest we forget or minimize the lamentation of other species, we live in a time of devastation of the environment, with over half of the world's species endangered or threatened with extinction. Among them are the koala bear, orangutan, chimpanzee, polar bear, bluefin tuna and others. We've all seen images of elephants, and other animals struggling to survive because of the effects of climate change, including dying algae bloom and rising ocean temperatures.
These seemingly isolated tragedies are part of a whole. Because we are one.
These are maddening times that seem all too much like those described in the 1936 song by Mordechai Gebertig, S'brent ! (It's burning!)
"S'brent! briderlekh, s'brent!
Oy, undzer orem shtetl nebekh brent!
Beyze vintn mit yirgozn
Raytn, brekhn un tseblozn
Shtarker nokh di vilde flamen,
Alts arum shoyn brent.
Un ir shteyt un kukt azoy zikh
Mit farleygte hent,
Un ir shteyt un kukt azoy zikh –
Undzer shtetl brent!"
"It’s burning! Brothers, it’s burning! Oh, our poor town, alas, is burning! Angry winds with rage are tearing, smashing, blowing higher still the wild flames—all around now burns! And you stand there looking on with folded arms, and you stand there looking on—our town is burning!"
Truly, the anguish experienced by families suffering brutal racism and senseless violence,along with desecration of our planet and our humanity are all connected, I believe, in a universal moment of grieving. By embracing our commonality and the connections we share in the face of our undercurrent of trauma, we can respond with a collective heart .
Posted: to Poor Richie's Almanac on Sat, May 8, 2021
Updated: Sun, May 29, 2022