I was at work the last couple of days, working at the bedsides of neonatal intensive care patients (NICU); busy, distracted, getting home late and tired. Still the news came in. Our city, Denver, was burning in protests over George Floyd and the pent up rage over racism and police brutality.
The nurses, our parents, our colleagues, as in times past when horrific things happen, are unable to slow down and process because we are in the midst of our own medical story. Babies don’t stop being born in crisis, pandemics, civil rights violations, shootings. They are born and some of them are sick. We are responding, working, saving lives in the hospitals, night and day. I was eating lunch on a busy shift when the Sandy Hook story broke and I watched it with my colleagues in the break room. I remember how heavy and sad I felt as I went back to work, but I had to put it behind me, in a corner of my mind to save the lives in front of me. Still, the chatter of the protests about our country was in every room the last few days, among the staff and with the parents.
I thought of this when I was sitting on my front porch today with a cup of coffee listening to the still morning and looking at the bright blue sky and clouds floating by, with my cat jumping into my lap for a rub. I thought of the complexity and unity of our world as another shift works in my unit saving lives and I am now having a leisurely moment to reflect, take in and process what’s been happening the last few days.
I thought about how we are a collective consciousness. All throughout this nation there is a sense of communal unease. I have felt this through COVID with the world trying to communally make sense of what was happening. There is a communal and collective consciousness but a complexity of reactions individually. As we discussed the events at work, you could see each of us struggling to put the situation in context, not offend anyone, and meaningfully grasp the impact of the unfolding story.
I cannot fully understand the catalyst that has prompted the violence. I am not sure who it is coming from. I don’t know who is responsible for the burnings, vandalisms, the guns fired in our downtown. There seem to be so many pieces of evidence which I cannot truly put together. I guess I’m not convinced that the violence is being perpetuated by true protestors. But maybe it is a systemic rage that has built over the years? Or is it people using this as an excuse to behave badly? Is it the radical right, anti-government, gun loving folks going under cover to cause dissension? Or maybe it is a combination of things and people causing violence. I don’t know. It’s hard to know how to feel as I support the protests and voices that need to be heard, but do not support the vandalism to businesses, the gun violence, the damage to property.
I know for certain that we have an entrenched culture of racism, disparity, and police power in the US. I lived in the south, in Houston, TX for several years in my twenties. I know what I heard and saw. I saw and heard racism alive and well. We knew the power the police had and that it could go badly for you if you encountered a bad cop. I knew about a town called Vidor, TX where a black person should never stop as it was a hot-bed of Klu Klux Klan. I heard of an older man, through a close relative, who had boasted privately of murdering a black man in a neighboring state with friends in his youth. In Custer, South Dakota on vacation, behind a soup can I found a card by the KKK explaining how they really were the protectors of women and children and inviting membership. It was commonly known in Houston, that if you drove to New Orleans, there was a chance of being stopped by the police on the freeways in Louisiana and having drugs planted in your car and having your car seized. My sister was jailed overnight in a small Texas town on speeding charges by a power hungry cop who didn’t like the way she spoke to him. I heard a parent in the NICU in Houston, TX refer to nurse who was hispanic, in a derogatory term of race. These are only some of my own life experiences as a white woman, not a person of color. But based on them I extrapolate out and know with certainty that we have big problems here in the US. Most cops, and I know a few, are fantastic people, with a true desire to serve the public. But I know, because I know, because I know and any US citizen (and cop) if you’re being gut honest, knows that we have a history of police abuses, bad cops not weeded out, departments that are corrupt, police property seizures etc. There is also a strange conspiracy culture full of those who want to take the government by storm and collect all sorts of weapons and often live in the rural parts of our country; the off the grid kind, the ones who support buying military weapons and often are the white power sorts of people. All of it is alarming.
It’s like a soup in my head, the problems this country faces. So many wonderful people; the majority of people. But I feel like there is a sort of sickness underneath it all. I’ve felt it as a woman. I know there is endemic discrimination towards woman, particularly in the conservative cultures. I’ve heard it called “roles” in religious circles. Women are equal, the mantra goes, but we have unique “roles”. Bullshit. This kind of thinking is why there are deep barriers to true female equality in the US. Why haven’t we had a woman president yet? A part of me knows it is because the county doesn’t have enough people that would vote a woman in. That alone gives me, a woman, pause for thought.
It feels like we have a bully culture. People take what they want through money, power, selfish individualism, brainwashing, forceful ideology, extremism. The person with the loudest voice, the most power, the most money and the strongest tactics wins. That’s what Trump represents to me. The ability for a person lacking in character and virtue with a heavy load of vices to become President speaks volumes to me. No one is perfect, but on the scale of good to bad, Trump tips heavy on the bad. And yet, because he supports the agenda of certain groups, they are willing to overlook the burden of his vices; his baggage.
All of this, the soup of my country’s problems and the communal consciousness that exists here; I feel all of us wondering how this will play out. I myself wonder if good will win the day. If justice will prevail. If our country will continue down the road of the bully dominating, or will we find leadership that puts a value on equal and fair treatment for all people (the minority, the immigrant, the woman, the poor, the disadvantaged etc.) before power.
*RHINO district, Denver, CO*