Our country is hurting. As much as I am an optimist who looks for the good and the growth in all things, you can’t have a week like this one and not feel like you have been kicked hard in the gut. When you attack anyone’s child, the horrific trauma of an unimaginable situation knocks us, especially a parent, to the floor. Immediately, we go to that place of how this could be real and what if that were my child? But in the aftermath of horror, we struggle to find answers we can agree on, and our ability to take to social media and broadcast our thoughts and feelings are real.
This is America, we all have the right to say what we think. For me, I needed to sit with this one. In part because there are no words that can undo another unimaginable tragedy, and because every problem within ourselves and our society has a symptom and a root. My mind always looks for the root.
As I walked through the WWII museum in New Orleans on Thursday, the tears rolled for the price we have paid for our freedom. Men my son’s age were shot down from the sky and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. The loss of life was immense, the heroism, unlike anything we hear about on the news today. My junior in high school just took an AP History exam and there was nothing from the 1900s on it. What are we teaching them? The difference between now and then is that as a nation, we were united in what we were fighting for; an American way of life, and our freedom. Today, there is a giant divide between what we are teaching them about America, and what our story is about that will translate into the way the next generation feels about being American. The words American exceptionalism are rooted in the human spirit’s desire to be free, not the egotistical way it is portrayed in the news and taught today. Freedom isn’t perfect, but it is the way every human being, at their core, wants to live and it’s the only way we find our path to our greatest potential. I am grateful for the exposure and understanding I have gained from my travels around the globe, but I am always proud and happy to come home because I believe that every day I can get up, I can make a difference.
Before you stop reading because you think you know where I am headed with this, I ask you to take a deep breath, decompress and settle your nervous system.
We are a country of diverse opinions and a power structure that has forgotten its roots and its people. Do I see a need for reform in gun laws? Absolutely. And I have friends that wouldn’t agree with me on that. Do I see a need to protect the Second Amendment? Absolutely. I understand the escape from the tyranny that birthed this country. And for that, I would be dubbed a gun lover. I am neither. Am I a law-abiding citizen that follows the laws in place? Yes. Criminals don’t. So to demonize the gun without talking about the hypocrisy within the government and the mental health and identity crisis we are experiencing as a nation will not solve the problem.
Do I trust the people in power to handle these incredibly important issues that set America apart from the rest of the world? No, I do not. Our leaders take to the airwaves in dramatic fashion, alarming an already traumatized public, with the full knowledge the outcome of this discussion lies between Congress and the NRA, not ‘We the People’. So while we argue and divide our homes and neighborhoods with no real ability to affect change, they seize the moment of our anxiety and pull at the fabric of what it means to be an American, thinking we will be scared into submission.
Yesterday, as we rode back to our hotel after the museum and the French Quarter with an African American uber driver, we shared stories. He told me that he was independent and free in his younger days, and now, from underneath his N-95 mask, he is more afraid of the world. I told him how my life experience had produced the opposite story. He was a chef and a musician, and clearly had some stories to tell. There was no judgment in our differences as we chatted back and forth. His message:
“This is New Orleans, be real, come as you are, we love you.”
Let that sink in, how does it feel? It felt good to me.
Where do we connect and find inspiration to BE BETTER these days? I see it when generations connect through music, the American table, and sports, but to feel it we have to be able to come down and experience American life on a cellular level. To feel safe in society, and with each other, we have to learn how to breathe, listen, and process even when we disagree and sense all of the things that are out of our control. Each of these experiences and habits take center stage in my life every day.
The tragedy experienced in Uvalde this week is immeasurable. The anxiety and heartbreak we feel as Americans are real. There are no words that make it ok. Today I trust people, not power, and work to be part of the parallel universe of kindness, connection, and community that creates the safety that the human spirit needs to thrive and do good in the world. This Memorial Day Weekend, as we celebrate those who have died for our freedom, I find myself asking the question again that has been in my mind for the last few years…what would happen if a growth mindset and mindfulness were a part of American politics? There are so many things wrong, and rIght now the only answer I can come up with that feels right is to breathe, connect, and tell the stories that inspire us to BE BETTER.
Sending love and prayers to the people of Uvalde, Texas. I don’t know what it is like to stand in your shoes, but you are in my heart.
With love & optimism,