If you live at all, you have traumas and losses and scars. Some you get over, some you grow from, and some can haunt you for the rest of your life or pop up unexpectedly when you hear a name or a sound or a phrase, or when you see something that reminds you of what you lost, what you saw, what you felt all over again.
This is living. This is how we are wired, and at our best we can tap into those things we carry to empathize with others who are carrying loads of their own.
Lately there’s been scientific evidence that some trauma can be transferred from one generation to another– and that extreme trauma can be passed down biologically. So, in many cases, what we carry can get handed off to our children if we don’t deal with our shit appropriately- and if we don’t reach out with empathy to others dealing with the load they carry as well.
This is the fundamental failing of how white America has perceived the trauma inflicted for generations on Black Americans, and other people of color who have been marginalized by the compounding traumas of history. White people can’t seem to connect how they have been impacted by the traumas they’ve lived through in their lifetimes with what it would be like to have that multiplied generation after generation by racism, the wreckage of colonialism, and all the other things previous generations of mostly white Protestant folk did to everyone who didn’t look or sound or act like they did.
Speaking of white protestant inflicted trauma, Tucker Carlson’s suggestion that making kids wear masks is child abuse and pretty much everything else Carlson and his colleagues and predecessors at Fox News have said are prime examples of white privilege failing to have empathy beyond class and ideology. They are in the business of creating trauma from air—traumatizing their viewers with imagined slights and horrors to get them to react with anything but empathy.
We need to acknowledge the real things we carry, here and everywhere in the world, and use that knowledge to be more human to others. We need it to guide how we treat other people. We need it to guide policy. But first, we need it at a personal level.
I had someone call me some interesting names during the election season and “unfriend” me, because he didn’t react well to his world view being challenged. He was a shipmate. We carry some of the same things. After A recent anniversary of some of that baggage, I reached back out to him about an offer I had made to him a while back-making him a hand-thrown coffee mug- and renewed it. It gave us a chance to talk again as two shipmates who shared a load, and acknowledge that shared experience and each other’s humanity.
We need to scale that kind of thing. We need to shoulder each other’s loads a bit, and let people know we see them—-and even if we cannot begin to fully comprehend the things they carry, at least attempt to grasp the dimension and weight of them. We’re never going to be better as a nation, or as a world, until we do.