The Work.

Ignorance. Privilege. The cost of a life. These are the topics I considered as I sat down to write. It's hard to know where to start right now. Ignoring that we are still in the throes of a pandemic minimizes that reality and all who have and continue to suffer. And yet, the pressing issue of racism and the related unrest in the country seems to require immediate attention. There is no question that we are in turbulent waters and sadly, there seems to be no calming in sight. People are angry. People are divided. People are hurt. People are dying. Through it all, our leadership is fanning the flames of divisiveness rather than encouraging unification. A friend has said to me on more than one occasion that ‘an optimist is merely a pessimist who has had his heart broken too many times.' This sentiment might be attributable to someone else, but its meaning is most important. Beyond the obvious implications, this thought conveys the notion that what occurs around us has a profound and lasting affect that can be far greater and longer-lasting than what is surface level. I feel sad about what is occurring in this country. I feel forlorn contemplating systemic and pervasive racism. I feel horrified witnessing some of the current response. I am not caveating or disclaiming when I explain that I am not judging, nor am I condoning. I know that I do not believe violence is the answer. I also know for certain that I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in a country that is plagued by racism and discrimination. This is simple. The murder, degradation, and injury perpetuated on and against people of color in this country is heart-wrenching and sickening. It's time for it to stop. The destruction and harm caused to property, businesses, and people, is tragic, devastating, and unnecessary. 100,000 lives lost is a staggering figure. The media's desire to mostly publicize the negative to support an agenda is disappointing. The inability of many representatives to put country before party and people before schemes is mind-boggling. The lack of accountability that has infected our society for decades and our inability to break free of certain paradigms, no matter how little they continue to serve us, is confusing. So, what now? What do we do in the middle of a pandemic as we watch our country burn around us? Well, now we start to do the work. This work is challenging because it is fairly intangible. It's difficult because it is different for everyone, so no universal standard exists. It can seem impossible because it requires patience, courage, and determination. The work means being uncomfortable. It means taking responsibility. It means holding each other accountable. It means asking tough questions. It means acknowledging and putting a spotlight on the broken parts but also making room for the goodness. It means standing up for what's right. Every single time. No matter what. The work is not a hashtag. It's not posting on social media. It's not trendy. It doesn't take one day or even one month. The work is a lifelong commitment. The work will connect you to folks you may never have known, but it will also probably lose you some friends. The work is not clean, it's messy. It's emotional. It will break your heart, knock you down, and then help you get up again. Here's the thing. Without some of us doing the work, we are totally lost. If some of us roll up our sleeves, take a deep breath, and dive in, we can find our way to a much brighter future. My father told me this morning that he sees my despair and he knows it well, but wanted to offer the following wisdom: “We've been here before. Our country has been in a place of chaos and pain and darkness. I have witnessed what is seemingly this country being burnt to the ground in the most literal and metaphorical ways. What I have learned is that what has seemed like the end, is never the end. What has seemed like the worst, is never the bottom. What comes from this pain is hope and love. We are in a bad place, but we are also in a unique position to turn it around. But we can't do that without deciding first that all hope is not lost. We must first acknowledge that there is room to grow. So much room. Have faith in the goodness of people. Sometimes it seems like there is more bad than good, but I've lived on this earth for nearly 67 years and I can tell you that just is not the truth.” I can't think of a better message. There's no easy way out of all of this. That's the reality. We each have a responsibility here if we want more. We have to do our part. Buildings will be rebuilt, bodies will heal, hospitals will be reconverted, and graffiti will be washed away. However, we can only truly heal as a country, a society, and as humans, if we decide that that the value of a singular life cannot be assigned a dollar amount, that we are all truly equal under the law and in each other's eyes, and that the work is always worth it. Always.

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Krister Axel

Music Blogger and Memoirist at CHILLFILTR.com

Ashland, United States