I had a much needed phone call with a friend this weekend. She is one that I count on to help make sense of the world at large, and of the day to day. This particular call wasn’t planned. It just felt essential. And honest. And from the belly.
One of the things we talked about was the kind of reaction that is happening in many parts now in the United States. More police being shot. More protests. Systems of law seem to be teetering. Tenuously. It didn’t all just happening in one moment. Nor in one killing. It just became more visible in one moment, the something that has been going on systemically for a long time.
There is fear, I believe. There are calls for calm — good. There is reaction. There is heart-felt loss. There is grief — a lot of it. A lot unprocessed, which is part of what brought my friend and I together yesterday. Just to listen.
Amidst all of this are calls for action. “We need to do something!” This echoes through individuals and communities. My friend told my about immediate actions in her community. Budgets are being opened up to support a collaborative commitment. So that questions can be asked. What is the role of police? What is the role of community? These are good questions. They are essential.
As supportive as I feel of these questions and the commitment to community, dare I say, the rush to action is impeding some of the essential work here. The honesty and the belly don’t come without a different kind of listening, first. Ninety minutes to get to an action plan is an admirable intent — it just isn’t realistic. It’s dress-up. Pretend. A start masqueraded as a finish. It’s comforting and assuages fear.
I don’t know what the solutions are — this is the criticism of most pauses in process, isn’t it; “Well, what’s your solution! You don’t have one? Then this one is better. Any plan is better than no plan.” There is such a trap in this, isn’t there. It’s partially true enough to create seduction. So many of us are hungry for solutions and making it better that we are happy to default to such seduction.
There is heavy lifting to do here, first. There is grief to be held. There are stories to be told. There are questions to be asked. But, I’d suggest, without a rush to action, will more likely get us to honesty, tender hearts, and emotions down in the belly — the things that create more lasting change. To be clear, action is needed. I stand in support. I just don’t stand in support of systemic reductionism.
Communities, and societies, are not defined by the fact that they face problems. They are defined by their responses to those problems. And dreams. And hopes. Not just by the “what,” but by the “how” we respond together, which I hope includes the action that includes deliberate pausing to listen well.
Listen well. Start there. Today. Even with one person.