Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 25, 2020
Editorial - Our common humanity
by Nat Barrows
Over the last four months, 300 million-plus Americans have accepted, lived with and adapted to a revolutionary set of regulations, limitations and restrictions to protect each other from transmitting or catching the coronavirus in the pandemic that has swept over us and the rest of the planet.
The consequences of these protective actions have been profound. On the societal and community level we have curtailed or completely given up interaction, activities and events that are the fabric and glue of our lives. Our economy is in free fall with the survival of many of our local businesses and institutions in doubt. The emotional and social connections that define and reassure our humanity have been stopped or severely curtailed.
All this, along with the constantly changing information about threats, preventive measures and a national leadership vacuum, has produced uncertainties, enhanced fears and spread confusion. Each day is a tumultuous challenge. We have come unmoored. Our future is unknown. The stress of it all has brought irrational and erratic behavioral responses. But the unifying thread has been common sacrifices. We have all accepted these sacrifices as necessary for our individual and collective well being. Simply, we have come together to understand that all lives matter.
Now, on top of this has come a series of graphic images of black people in our country being shot or killed, often by police officers, most of whom are white. The facts of the various events are complicated, but the images are not and the dehumanization of these black people is not.
The whole series of events has produced a national soul-searching about racial issues, especially the relationship between black people and white people. The problems are obvious, especially about the conduct and accountability of some police departments. There have been protests, an important part of the right of free speech in our country, but, unfortunately, also riots, violence, looting and arson around the country. Support for the Black Lives Matter movement has mushroomed to rehumanize black people as a way to engender change. BLM is saying we, black people, are human, we matter, too.
The national movement came to us locally with protests and vigils, some in contradiction to state gathering guidelines, on the Island and in nearby towns. On the Island the movement spread to painting slogans and putting up signs and posters on public and private property. These actions prompted the placement of signs saying “All lives matter,” and unfortunately, last weekend, a noose—the hate symbol of white lynching of black people in our country—was hung from a wire by the causeway. So, more protests, more vigils. Also, separately, during this time, a group of citizens bombarded a meeting of the county commissioners about the county sheriff ordering “riot gear” (see the interview with Sheriff Scott Kane in this issue). Apparently only a very few called or contacted the sheriff about what actually was going on.
The common feature here is that people are not talking to each other about issues, feelings and needs. There is a common convergence here. It is a perfect storm of virus dislocation that has created a climate of negative energy. The human ecology on this Island is coming apart.
So what is the way forward?
Let us all come together to seek creative and feasible solutions.
Let us all start by acknowledging our common humanness, recognizing our common needs, especially the tolerance so important as we live on this Island together. Let us all seek our spirituality, our love, our need for mutual support as we act to heal from this discord and the challenge of living together during this pandemic.
No problem is ever solved if people do not talk to each other. We urge that everyone calm their rhetoric. We urge that everyone stop putting up signs and trigger symbols, painting or defacing graffiti and having repeated protests. We urge that the individuals with differing opinions seek dialogue on neutral ground with facilitated support. We urge that dialogue, individually and collectively, continue.
We are all connected; we are all part of one human race; we know that kindness begets love. It is all a circle. It is about acceptance, reaching out and finding commonality.