A few weeks ago my beloved town of Hillsborough hosted a Southern Heritage Rally, at which a few hundred people gathered to support the Confederate flag.
This is just one more incident, adding to the heaviness of my heart this year: Sandra Bland, Brandon Jones, Eric Harris, Anthony Hill, Sam DuBose, Cecil the Lion, Bill Cosby, Walter Scott, Francis Pusok ... and so many countless others.
As I sit here trying to digest my grief, my disbelief, my outrage, I can’t help but see that I too am part of the problem.
It’s easy to point a finger at the explicit perpetrators of all this violence and hatred. It’s easy to blame the police, the government, the racists, the heartless hunters, the rapists.
But blaming doesn’t address the root cause and doesn’t result in substantial change. Blaming simply takes the spotlight away from us – those who point – and allows us to evade taking responsibility for all the ugliness that surrounds us.
I’ll admit that when I was watching a montage of all the magnificent animals killed by Walter James Palmer, the first thought to cross my mind was that he deserved to be hunted and beheaded, just as he had done to his poor victims. And while most would empathize, if not fervently agree with my choice of punishment, my thought was an act of violence no different, in essence, than Palmer’s act of violence.
Part of the problem is that our definition of violence fails to encompass the more invisible, insidious forms of violence such as violent thoughts. And it is these very thoughts, even the seemingly justified ones such as mine, that go on to create the violent world we live in. You may argue that one little thought couldn’t possibly have such drastic repercussions; but think of the sea, is it not made up of billions of drops, each one as important as the rest in forming the greater whole?
Violence is the result of a deep disconnection between ourselves and our hearts. When we are connected to our heart; when we allow ourselves to feel deeply, both the pain and the joy; when we embrace our shame, our darkness, our skeletons, a sincere self-love emerges. And when we are grounded in this place, we simply cannot do another harm.
If our children are growing up to be ruthless trophy hunters, rapists, misogynists, and vindictive policemen completely devoid of a moral compass, we must be failing them. If we truly want peace, the change will have to come from within each of us. Let’s begin with the violence within ourselves – the self-deprecating thoughts we repeat every day: that we are ugly, that we aren’t worthy of love, or that we aren’t good enough – the thoughts that tell us that we must achieve in order to be lovable.
The truth is, we are all worthy of love just by virtue of being born. And yet, how often do we give our children the message that they are not enough, just as they are? That they need to “do” and “achieve” to gain our love and approval?
We owe it to our children to embrace ourselves completely – even the ugly bits we are so ashamed of – because only then will our children be able to fully embrace themselves. Let us strive to teach our children that what matters most in this life is not only how we treat those around us, but how we treat ourselves. Where there is self-love, there cannot be inner or outer violence.
This is a tall order. But ultimately, it is our connection to our hearts that dictates what kind of world we live in. What kind of world do you want to live in?
Oriana Galardi-Este is a nutritional balancing and reflexology practitioner. She lives in Cedar Grove.