Reflections on Manchester

Today I find myself decentered and deeply shaken by the wanton violence that ripped through the Ariana Grande concert venue in Manchester, England. I am overcome by a sickening rawness in my gut when I consider each beautiful life that was taken and each living soul that will bear the burden of this destructive moment for years to come.

Flashbacks of the Orlando nightclub massacre and other senseless, brutal shootings zoom into mind like a swarm of wasps, each memory a penetrating sting. They cannot be shooed away. Running faster to escape won’t make the pain stop. As a mother, I am hurting for all the families whose babies will no longer come home, crawl into bed, and snuggle into their blankets. I want to go back in time and place an impenetrable golden bubble of protection around everyone who was there last night. I want to convert bullets to flower petals, bombs to fireworks. I want to shake the young man out of his blind hatred and remind him that our God, by whatever name we choose to call Her/Him/Them, makes us all in Her image. By killing another we are actually killing ourselves.

Why have we not learned this yet?

Why do we continue to NOT see the interconnectedness of our souls? Why do we not awaken to the God-created reality that we are not separate? Why do we remain so stubbornly set in our own constructed reality of separateness? Why do we continue believing that “different” appearance, language, religion, beliefs, traditions, values, and cultures are divisions? When will we wake up to the truth and realize we live in an illusion where people are not equal and where God is many paths all competing for power and sovereignty?

The Manchester bombing, an event that will undoubtedly be considered one of the worst acts of terrorism on British soil, is a reminder of our responsibility as human beings to resist existing systems and “leaders” who perpetuate any legislation or policy that creates division, inequality, and inequity among us. We are surrounded and inundated by polarizing agendas that aim to categorize us – all of us – through binaries: good/bad, rich/poor, educated/ignorant, progressive/backward, competent/incompetent, and an infinite number more. We are constantly judged by socially-constructed (not God-constructed) standards by which we are expected to live. When we don’t “live up” to these, we are “failures” not “successes.” Over time, these perceptions of “failure,” based in falsehoods of what has been deemed “normal,” “just,” or “right,”  eat away at our psyches. We lose our sense of Self (our God-Self) and give into the illusion that we are separate from others.

It is ironic that the young man who killed in the name of his God most likely was thinking he was closest to God in that fateful moment. But, consciously choosing to kill is the furthest expression from love. It’s the ultimate act of separating self (ego, human self) from God.

I cannot help to wonder if this young man felt like an outsider – within his country, city, school, neighborhood, community, and even family. I do not know his backstory, nor can I assume any of his motivations – other than the religious ones that have been presented. Even these, however, I must question, for how a person’s intentions and lived experiences are portrayed in the media are, many times, highly suspect. In these “wonderings,” I contemplate whether a single act of kindness or acceptance may have changed the trajectory of this young man’s life. I wonder if, as human beings, we are kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, and gentle enough to reach out to others, especially others we have deemed “different.” I wonder, as a collective, if we can demonstrate genuine care and action even if it means stepping out of our own knowings to understand another’s. I wonder if this young man’s anger and hatred could have been redirected in healthier ways if we, as human beings, had taken better stock of his pain.

As an educator, I am reflecting on this young man and about the ways in which we, as human beings, create – by our actions and inactions – situations in which people are made to feel “less than,” voiceless, and marginalized. In schools we focus our school day on meeting standards and achieving measurable outcomes. We concentrate much less time orienting our students’ minds and hearts toward loving compassion, honoring of one another’s knowings, active listening, mindful respect and interaction, and appreciating the unique qualities inherent in every person. We do not teach our students to resist systems and practices that view difference as deficit. We rarely ask students to critically examine the schools in which they spend the majority of their day. And we seldom consider how we, as educators, can become active changemakers committed to social justice and equitable practices to transform systems.

There are no answers or narratives that exist that can lessen the pain caused by the bombing. For me, this is a wake-up call to be better and resist more. To “be better” is to act in accordance with my heart, to show greater love and compassion to others, and to actively create spaces where people can recognize and honor each other. To “resist more” is to sharpen my awareness and become more critically conscious of the societal inequities that exist around me. Resistance is also action. Therefore, resisting more also means to speak up and take action when injustice is present.

But right now as I think of Saffie Rose Roussos, the eight-year-old girl who died last night and who is the same age as my daughter, Goya, I wonder if being better and resisting more is enough. I think these are only first steps on a very long path. But maybe as more of us step onto this path we will slowly realize the illusion of separation dissolving. And perhaps, one day, we can honor our differences while simultaneously recognize our interconnections.

With much love and heartache,

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