I can’t concentrate, can you? I can’t keep my thoughts on my work, yet as a new employee I want to be quick and productive. I’m not. I look at my laptop screen and my big monitor and I promise myself that I will keep my mind on the work before me and then I am lost in my thoughts, staring out the window. Eventually I catch myself. Repeat. The day goes by.
That’s my only problem?
There are people who are grieving, whole communities that are reeling, hospital personnel who work despite their fear and exhaustion, people fearing eviction, people saying goodbye to their loved ones through telephone screens, people watching their businesses vanish, older people watching their adult children’s lives come apart.
And then, on another scale entirely, people are rioting about yet another brutal killing. Why would you kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes while he begs to breathe? What disease of mind or spirit would cause anyone to do that? There was no justification for it. I don’t know how long this link will last, but this is the headline: Surveillance video of the moments leading up to George Floyd being pinned under a policeman’s knee shows that he didn’t resist arrest.
Black Americans are suffering grief and fury and exhaustion yet again — and terror for their young sons and brothers and husbands yet again — while the rest of our society can choose to ignore this if we wish.
My problem is, I can’t concentrate?
So I give money to a social justice organization and then to the food pantries I identified a while back. I click a few times and enter a credit card number and then click OK. That is my response to the ongoing epidemic, the crashing of the economy, and the killing of the child of God named George Floyd.
Then I look around my home office, in my silent house — yes, I have a house, and I am unlikely to lose it — and I feel quiet panic even though everything for me is basically fine.
I miss my friends everywhere, most especially at church, I miss you terribly. Even if among you are people I don’t know well, I miss everyone: your voices, your bodies, your gestures and movements. I need to see you leaning towards each other in conversation, hear the excited voices of pre-teens clustered just around the corner, glimpse a shiny bald head or a puff of white hair, watch the steady progress of a walker or hear the tapping of a cane. I need all of it; we are embodied, and our peaceful sharing of physical space is part of how we dignify each other.
There have to be ways to achieve a new equilibrium, for people who feel themselves coming apart. We can talk to each other frequently online and on the phone, for example; we can go for walks together; we can visit while sitting at a safe distance.
But I don’t know what good it will do. So I calm down — so what. I had been thinking “The cities are going to burn this summer.” Didn’t even have to wait that long. All my life I have been aware of racial injustice and, like a good urban northeastern white Episcopal liberal, I have participated in anti-racism trainings, beginning back in the mists of time in the 1980s, and voted for the candidates I thought could do the most good. There was a while when the statistics seemed to show an improvement in income and opportunity for black people. But those gains were caused by affirmative action, which like Reconstruction turns out to have been a brief interlude. Nothing changes for real.
O God, may Your son George Floyd find joy in Your heavenly kingdom. May his family and friends find comfort. May we change our terrible ways. Why do You leave us like this, stuck with our broken and sinful nature?
May 27, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths