Stand up. Sit down. Link arms. Kneel. Turn off the NFL. Turn on the NFL. Destroy statues. Move statues. Create new memorials. There seem to be strong opinions being tossed in every direction, only to be tackled by a strong opinion with an opposing view. Unity appears to have dissolved, choked out by the near-constant expression of divisiveness.
Compromise has been extinguished, leaving little progress achieved. We find ourselves standing at a cultural crossroads, unsure of next steps to take. Many remain unwilling to shift perspectives toward another’s point of view.
Trauma inflicted upon a society contains similar effects as experienced on an individual level. Although, the collective pain can spur many on towards taking action that has far reaching effects.
Memory contains a crucial place in the life of a person. Memory also has far-reaching effects, wading into a the life of a community and society as a whole. Our collective memory contains much evidence of past pain. Moments of historical significance that changed the course of our Union. Instances that served to divide rather than unite. The effects of these past events have been long-lasting, effecting future generations all the way up to the present day.
The ways in which we confront past trauma can make a big difference. Positive examples of such confrontations exist in our present day. The Nazi’s reign of terror left 6 million Jewish lives in its wake. Countless other groups were targeted as well - people completely stripped of their humanity, deemed unable to contribute to society. In an effort to preserve the memory of those wrongly murdered, holocaust memorials have been erected all across the world. Understandably in Germany and Eastern Europe but more surprisingly in places like Uruguay and South Africa. Countries where Jews were not deported from to be executed in the infamous death camps.
There are at least sixty memorials and museums in the Unites States alone including Arizona, Oregon, Massachusetts and Tennessee. Visitors show both respect and remembrance for the dead by placing rocks atop these symbolic structures - identical to the customary Jewish practice of incorporating the placement of rocks on graves. The crimes against humanity were so enormous while leaving such deep scars that the need to educate future generations regardless of race or creed became the noble goal. Each memorial uniquely tells a story filled with pain and wounds that were unfathomably deep.
While our story does not begin to compare to the horrors of the Holocaust, our motivation for telling is not all that different. There are unique characteristics and circumstances surrounding the traumatic event that occurred nearly eight years ago; however, the hallmarks of trauma remain the same. We want to be the voices of healing and the ears to hear the tales of those who remain unheard. Our own experience offered the opportunity to learn firsthand about the reactions of people to the initial ordeal. There were those that we expected to respond with love, support or simply some compassion; yet, it was not offered and remained unavailable from some of the people we trusted and admired the most. People in communities that we had known and poured into their lives for a long time. Then there were those that amazed us. Perhaps these precious souls, who took discovering and kind action, took our breath away because of our low expectations. We learned people are always full of surprises - even when you least expect it.
The biggest surprise emerged with a third group, comprised of individuals who did not understand. The lack of understanding is not surprising in and of itself. Even after eight years, we are unable to fully understand or process the far-reaching effects of the trauma endured. The surprise revealed itself in the actions that followed. These people chose to continue to walk with us. Listening to our pain, asking questions, giving help where possible and through it reiterated, “I don’t get it.” Not understanding the depth of the pain, the consequences of trauma or the enormity of the wave we were submerged under for so long. Yet they remained steadfast in their commitment, making clear that their love of us was greater than the need to understand in the present. A willingness to walk the road while trying to grasp the intensity of the anguish. The need to understand was secondary to the desire to be a part of the healing process.
In the same vein, our understanding may be lacking when it comes to the opinions and arguments made by people all across this great nation. Instead of engaging in shouting matches or social media outbursts, the solution may be found in walking with another group of people. Highlighting, embracing and celebrating the humanity of others while respectfully disagreeing with their viewpoint. The process of achieving a full understanding regarding the experiences and traumas of another community may be quite long and lengthy. Like when a car is stuck in the mud and the driver chooses to rev the engine, the wheels dig deeper, making it harder for the car to be moved forward. Sticking to our views can oftentimes have a similar effect.
Join us as we attempt to participate in the healing process by being willing to listen, slow to speak while refraining from engaging in anger. Shouting our opinions ever more loudly never brings consensus. Take the time to listen to a differing viewpoint, engaging empathetically with those deeply affected by the trauma of the past. The act of listening differs from an endorsement. You may not be swayed by the arguments of another; however, a differing argument should not lead to vilification. It is never easy to resist the temptation to skewer an opponent; but, in walking together, memories are preserved. In effect, giving light to a flame of hope, making way for change, healing and unity to be achieved.