With those four words, my friend, who is black, brought the reality of our zeitgeist into my home and my heart.
It was a simple Facebook post. A letter to his friends, shared on this day, the second in a row where a black man has been gunned down by police officers during a moment of “routine contact”.
And two more names are added to the wall, the invisible, intangible memorial wall that our nation has built around its heart to protect us from the pain. It is a wall that holds the names of the dead only for as long as they make headlines, and then the wall is cleaned.
To make room for the next name.
My friend just swung a sledgehammer into that wall without reservation or regret, and I am forever grateful that he did. I called him to thank him for writing his letter, and to tell him, through tears and shaking sobs, that I don’t want him or anyone else to ever have to say goodbye. Not like this.
Death will come for all of us. Let it come. In its time. When the pale rider is ready to collect his due. Until then, let us live. All of us.
But some of us will see our passage expedited. And with that thought in mind, my friend wrote a letter because he wanted to make sure he had a chance to tell us all he loves us, in case tomorrow turned out to be his day.
Can you feel that sensation? The fear of not knowing if you will come home, safely and in one piece, without any new holes in your body? Or alive at all? Can you feel the worry, the concern? The terror?
If, like me, you are a white male living in America, there is a good chance you can’t feel those sensations. You’ve likely never experienced what it means to feel afraid for your life because of the color of your skin. Or to fear that a loved one or close friend might not be there tomorrow.
Some of us have felt that sense of dis-ease. People like me, veterans of combat, we know the feeling. The fear. The terror. And then the quiet acceptance that takes up residence in your chest after the first few bullets fail to find their mark in your body.
But very few of us who are white and male in America know what it means to live in fear.
Very few when compared to black males living in this country. Damnably few.
My friend’s letter was simple to post. Click a button on a mouse or tap a tablet screen and it’s up for all to read. But I cannot imagine it was simple to write.
The choice to write it, I have no doubt, was as simple as simple can get.
Mandates, demands, obligations, duties. When we experience such compulsion, do we look upon the actions called for and describe them as complicated? Or do we act?
Lest this post veer away from the reason people subscribed to my blog in the first place, I’ll ask two more questions.
In our creative efforts, do we seek only to make mirrors, reflections of ourselves so that others may see us as we are? Or do we strive to reveal to the world the evils that have been hiding in plain sight for far too long?