I’m having trouble breathing today. Words are zipping around inside my head, screaming to get out, while emotions batter against my heart.
What are the depths of hatred and fear that compel a policeman to forget (ignore?) his sworn duty to protect, instead suffocating a man to death while being filmed, while people are begging him to stop, while the man is saying he cannot breathe?
I can’t breathe.
Do you know what it feels like to have nothing left to lose? Absolutely nothing left? I don’t know what this is like. Throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to have what I needed, even in lean times. There was never a sense of hopelessness, of having not one single thing left to lose.
But not experiencing it doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize it, and the violence we’re seeing on the streets of American cities is being expressed by people who feel that they have nothing left to lose. They are desperate, they are tired, they are angry. When you knock people down for long enough, and then keep battering, this is what happens. When they feel they have nothing left to lose, they rise up to release that anger.
Like most people, I would much prefer to work toward a peaceful solution to these issues, one that involves mutual respect plus a lot more listening than talking. It’s hard work, so much harder than photo ops and midnight tweets and calling in the military. I understand that the pent-up anger is going to come out, but while that is happening, we need voices of calm, voices of peace, voices of respect, and we need to hear them broadcast loudly above the din of hatefulness. We need real leadership. It’s not coming out of the White House, so it needs to come from another source.
I suggest that we switch the dialog away from “I can’t breathe” to taking a deep breath. I suggest that every one of us makes a commitment to take a deep breath and then truly look at the people we’re with, to let them speak, and to listen to their words. It sounds so small, so simple. A closed mouth and open ears could help change the world for the better.
Let’s breathe. Let. Us. Breathe.
What good authors have to say
I’ve long admired Thomas Friedman’s ability to say clearly what needs to be said. Click here for his latest column.
I’ve become a fan of conservative columnist Michael Gerson. He’s a principled man and an excellent writer. His column from Tuesday, June 2 is a fine example. Click here to read it.
And here is writer and Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens, coming clean about Republican election strategies. Click here to read it.
Do you know what gerrymandering is?
“In U.S. politics, the practice of drawing the boundaries of electoral districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage over its rivals (political or partisan gerrymandering) or that dilutes the voting power of members of ethnic or linguistic minority groups (racial gerrymandering).
“The term is derived from the name of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, whose administration enacted a law in 1812 defining new state senatorial districts. The law consolidated the Federalist Party vote in a few districts and thus gave disproportionate representation to Democratic-Republicans. The outline of one of these districts was thought to resemble a salamander. A satirical cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale that appeared in the Boston Gazette graphically transformed the districts into a fabulous animal, “The Gerry-mander,” fixing the term in the popular imagination.” —from Encyclopædia Britannica (also the illustration below)
Fast-forward to 2019, when two designers noticed how convulsed their congressional district looked, and then realized that the shape resembled the letter “U.” James Lee and Ben Doessel created the Ugly Gerry Font to raise awareness about the despicable practice of gerrymandering. The font is available for free. Their web site clearly states “No rights reserved.”
“After seeing how janky our Illinois 4th district had become, we became interested in this issue. We noticed our district’s vague but shaky U-shape, then after seeing other letters on the map, the idea hit us, let’s create a typeface so our districts can become digital graffiti that voters and politicians can’t ignore.”
“We’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” – President Barack Obama in his 2016 State of the Union address.