“You ain’t free,” said one of my mentors as we shared a martini at one of her favorite Manhattan restaurants many years ago. This fabulous dame, call her my Auntie Mame, lived a very rich, eccentric life full of interesting people and experiences across the world including diplomatic stints at the United Nations at one time. Auntie Mame used this expression in the context of reminding me that people do not necessarily have the same experiences and outcomes as others even if similar events happen. She shared many examples where this was quite evident.
In today’s climate, this euphemism still applies as data reports continue showing the death rate of everyday people due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). This pandemic seems to be a “equal opportunity” virus even though evidence is now showing a disproportionate impact on people of color in many American cities (high death rate). ALL LOSS OF LIFE IS VERY SAD and HEARTBREAKING. Our offerings of condolences to the many grieving families and their loved ones feels inadequate. We are indeed not free as proven by the mandated social distancing and other restrictions changing our everyday actions – – perhaps even long term for the better.
No matter your background (race, gender, age, religious affiliation, atheist etc.), it is also evident that a sea change and awakening is happening through our collective pain and lessons. There are limitations to our freedom as humans with things we cannot manage, control, or bend to our will with a snap of our fingers. It is humbling to accept that you can only do the best you can and change incrementally with the hopes, no guarantee, of getting the opportunity to rebuild on a different foundation.
Our old feelings of invincibility and superiority are being dismantled person by person as we all experience our collective vulnerability. It would be extremely saddening if once this is over, after all the loss of human life, that we do not permanently recognize what is truly important. Kindness. Compassion. Neighborly Love. No longer should the people who are considered outcasts or down trodden (elderly, poor, infirm, homeless etc.) be looked upon as though they don’t exist because we are now all on a similar playing field. The changes that follow could liberate us from past paradigms (us versus them mentality) towards our own personal and world rebirth.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal.”Toni Morrison, Great American Novelist