I walked into the waiting room at a Ford Service Center in Texas City today while my van's oil filter was being changed. The news was on. Videos from last night's shootings in Dallas were playing. Sounds of gunshots and reporters struggling find the right words for all the events this past week filled the room (but really there are no right words, so they weren't doing a very good job of it).
No one else was in the waiting room except for a late 60s/early 70s African-American employee of the Service Center. He stood in the center of the small room, directly in front of the TV, staring deeply into it. I didn't even think he noticed as I brushed past him and took a seat. He stayed like that for 4 or 5 long minutes, arms by his sides, intent posture unwavering. Finally, he slumped his shoulders, and turned to look directly at me. For a moment, he didn't say a word. He just let our eyes stay connected in what felt more like an intense recognition of humanity rather than an awkward moment. Finally, he shook his head slightly, and slowly stated, "We've lost our minds." He then pulled his big sunglasses down over his eyes, looked at me for another moment, and walked out the door - back to work.
I knew exactly what he didn't mean. He didn't mean "We," the African-American community, have lost our minds. He didn't mean "We," people of Texas or people or color or people of this group or that group have lost our minds.
What he did mean was that "We" - people of our modern world - seem to have killed some fundamental part of our souls that enables us to recognize our own humanity in one another. We don't understand how to truly value the lives of others, and all too often, we don't even know how to value our own. We have turned the lines we've fabricated between ourselves into psychological walls... And we treat people on different sides of them differently. It's much easier to live within the boundaries of our own identity (for many, this is what we call "privilege") than to see the world from the perspective of the humans on the sides we consider "not our own." So, many don't even try (...some even feel the need to build these walls in the physical realm). In terms of psychology, we largely use the mainstream media to destroy the bridges that connect us in order to fortify the walls that divide us. We make feigned assumptions that we know something about the people on the other sides, and we convince ourselves that these assumptions are truths instead of crossing over to investigate for ourselves.
But in reality, these walls don't actually exist. There are only flat lines we've etched into our collective consciousness that divide us. Truth is, we're on the same damn planet spinning around a sun on the fringes of a galaxy that's just a negligible fraction of a single universe in a (potential) cluster of multiverses that comprise this thing we call reality. We've lost sight of who and what we are. We've lost sight of the fact that our very existence here is a goddamn miracle. We don't value the sanctity of life, and we don't appreciate the fleeting nature of our own time here. Indeed, we've lost our minds. Indeed, we've all gone mad.
In 4 words and a period of prolonged eye contact, this man was more accurately able convey this message than I ever could in these paragraphs.
More importantly, just as we created it, we also have the ability to change this mentality in ourselves, and facilitate that change in our families, our friends, our loved ones, and (a marvel of the modern world) even our followers. It is all of our responsibility. Whether or not we want to think we are, we are all involved.