14 Nov. 2016
It’s almost been a week, and as a dear friend and I mused over beers at the pub yesterday, just trying to watch my Chargers lose in peace as a Trump voter spent the entire second half of the game trying to engage us in a political conversation, it feels like a death.
The man didn’t understand. He made fun of the protesters. When I tried to explain the fear, he said, “That’s what I’ve felt for the last 8 years.” He didn’t understand. When I expressed concern and asked him to put a name to his feelings when Obama was elected, he said, “Apprehensive.” Apprehensive, he said. He talked, and talked, and talked. We listened, and listened, and listened. On occasion a rare moment emerged in which there was space for us to speak. We tried to help him understand that the fear, and the pain, and the anger were real, and valid. He said, “I understand, but…” Again and again, “but…” Countless times, “but…”
He didn’t understand. He didn’t understand the terror, the fear that comes from knowing that you could be hurt at any time, for no reason other than being who you are. He didn’t know the humiliation that my friend spoke of today, when she told me that two of her friends had already been “grabbed” this week.
We shook his hand, thanked him for the civil conversation, and walked out of the bar. And on the walk back to the car, we spoke of mourning.
Like mourning the loss of someone we love. The death of a dream that we once took as reality, that we eventually came to sometimes doubt, and which we now realize never really existed at all.
And I am the most privileged one. I am in turns heartbroken, filled with anger, overcome with sadness, terrified that I made a mistake bringing my son into the world, and lost in mourning, almost on rotation. And I am a straight, white, cis-gendered male with a good, secure job and more people that love me than I could deserve. I can’t imagine the fear, the horror, and the sheer existential rage that so many women, people of color, people of different faiths, and sexual minorities must feel. It breaks my heart.
Some reading this will wonder why I have to be so damned melodramatic. But here’s the thing: because I write these books and give talks about compassion, I hear from lots of people…and more this week than ever before. People reaching out to me, sharing their stories. So I’ve seen and heard about much of this pain, from person after person after person. I’ve also received messages of support, kindness, and encouragement, from people all over the world – people who only want to help, and like me, aren’t sure how.
For those who are scared, hurting, or feeling the horror of trauma experienced in the past reawakened and flowing over you once again, I want you to know that I am sorry. I am sorry for the hurt that has been thrust upon you, through no fault of your own. I’m sorry I can’t make this better.
But if you’re hurting, and scared, and angry, and feeling alone, there’s something I need you to know.
You are not alone. You are loved, and cared for, by me and by people all over this world. We are on your side. We care about your suffering. We care about your pain, and though we’ll never truly understand it, we will do our very best to try. We will fight for you.
Just this evening before leaving work, I was talking with a dear friend and colleague who said to me, “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be an activist. But I am going to find out.” We are on your side, and we will fight for you.
Because your strength is inspiring.
Because you are beautiful and worthy of love.
Because your goodness fills the world with light, and helps us believe that there is something worth fighting for.
And for those who read this and feel an eye-roll coming on, please roll your eyes silently, because this message is not for you. You don’t yet understand, and though a part of me prays you will come to, I would never wish upon you that pain which is the most common entrance to this understanding. But should you come to know that pain, know also that you have people who care about you.
And if you feel a mocking comment coming on, I ask that you keep it to yourself. Because right now, if you share it, it will be the last interaction that you and I ever have. Because the pain is real, and I will not suffer those who knowingly make it worse. You will have plenty of opportunities to point out the depths of my hypocrisy in contexts that won’t harm others. Now is not the time.
To those of you who are hurting, know that I am holding you in my heart.