It’s been a sad week in America.
I read the news of what happened in Charlottesville a week ago. It cut like a shard of ice, burned in my gut and ached in my chest. It hurts. The thought of the hatred and people living in our country knowing that they’re hated like that hurts.
A few days later, learning about the vandalism of the Holocaust Memorial hurts.
Two days after that, hearing of immigrants in our region affected by this horrible atmosphere and seeing swastika graffiti hurts.
But I guess things like this should hurt. And I’m okay with that.
Like clockwork, the actual events of Charlottesville and what they mean for millions of people gave way to all sorts ink being spilled over topics that ultimately shift the focus away from the real tragedy. And I get it; it’s easier to envision this all being about two extremist groups fighting each other than it is to feel the pain of real people being hated because of the body they were born into. It’s easier to focus on an idea like media bias than it is to contemplate the fact that people in our country are still willing to commit violence or even murder because of others’ skin colors. It’s easier to turn a horrible event into political rantings than it is to imagine your own friend being killed by white supremacists. We like to shift the focus away because we really can’t bear the topic.
Resentment and cynicism are powerful anesthetics. They dull pain better than anything else I know. But sometimes, the pain demands to be felt. Sometimes the only way through the pain is to lean into it rather than lean away from it. That leaning into it is where courage is born, where empathy is forged. Where we begin to see hope for the problem that we may have missed by fleeing to lesser problems.
I remember hearing about a German man who began to create memorial stones for individuals killed in the Holocaust. He would make a gold brick for each victim and place it at the house they used to live in, the location they were most likely captured from. How difficult such a process would be: to see the individual names, the actual homes, to begin to fathom the horrible atrocity committed by people from your own country. It would be so much easier to not think about it, to focus on the issues at the sidelines of the Holocaust, to question the sources from where modern people have learned about it. But that’s not what this man did. He leaned into the pain, and by doing so thousands of people can understand in more human terms something most of us read about in history.
There’s something incredibly human about taking on the pain of someone else. It’s an equalizer in a way; a reminder that we all fear and love and hope for essentially the same things. That behind the tribalism and the politicization lies real, breathing people.
I don’t believe in drowning in despair, but I don’t think we should be afraid to lament. And this time, that’s what I’m doing. I’m just feeling it for what it is.
Because sometimes, it’s okay to be sad.