#1) A truck plowed into a crowd in Nice, France. At least 86 are reported killed. What I heard was that the truck driver was shooting at the crowd and zigzagging through to get the maximum damage. The thought of a truck being used as a weapon of such destruction—-a transportation vehicle we take for granted, see every day—shook me.
#2) I am the victim of a terrorist attack. I was hit by shrapnel from one of the bombs at the Boston Marathon. Remember that? Light years ago. I was still being treated at Mass General Hospital 2 years after the event. It occurred to me that the number of people who can say they are ‘victims of a terrorist attack’ is growing exponentially.
#3) I found out a very selfish part of me. I had been exhaustingly busy day at The Good Men Project—let’s just say it’s been a tough week for a publication committed to helping solve the problems of racism, but we had also just launched a new, mobile-friendly site design which needs bugs worked out. It got to be 4 pm and I realized I hadn’t eaten in well over 24 hours. So I went out for lunch.
And while I was out, the reports of the attack in Nice came rolling in. And I said to myself “I can’t even go to lunch without another terrorist attack happening.” Pretty selfish, right? 85 people got killed and I’m looking at the effect of another terrorist attack on me. But…that sentiment does lead to a universal insight, which is why I’m admitting to it. That is our fear, isn’t it? That we can’t even go out to lunch without there being another terrorist attack. That we can’t go about our daily routine. That we can’t just be normal without something catastrophic happening.
And isn’t that what terrorists want? All eyes on them. They want to distract people from the hard work of creating change. We will not be distracted.
#4) When I was at the Boston Marathon, it was a bright sunny day. A celebration. One of my daughters was running, I was standing at the finish line with one of my other daughters. When the first bomb went off, I thought it was fireworks. Or a celebratory cannon. Then we saw smoke rising from the crowd. Nothing really made sense. I thought I heard the crowd murmur the word bomb. With a flash of insight, I thought to myself: “It’s Patriot’s day! Of course it was a bomb!” Then the second bomb went off, the one that struck me. I can’t help but wonder if the people in Nice thought the truck was just accidentally going through the crowd when they had the moment of realization that is was Bastille Day, and of course it must be a terror attack. After the second bomb went off, I couldn’t even process what I was seeing. My brain literally wouldn’t let me comprehend the pieces of the scene. I am sure that happened with people in Nice.
#6) It was the year 2000. Christmas time. I was out shopping, and I ran into a friend of mine, Mike Casey, in a little shop in the mall. He was with his wife who was very pregnant. It was the first time I had met her. Her name was Neilie. They were radiant. We laughed. We hugged. In September of the following year Neilie was on a plane from Boston to Los Angeles, and that plane crashed into the World Trade Center. At the funeral, the church was so crowded they had to broadcast the service on loudspeakers outside. And I’ll never forget a story Mike told at his wife’s funeral. He said that morning was just another morning—they were both running around, he had to get to work, she had to get to the airport. And yet his wife refused to rush the kiss good-bye, she was completely present and kissed him like it was their very first kiss. As Mike said: “Neilie always knew how to say good-bye.” That has touched me and actually changed me and the way I interact with people. I want to be the person who always knows how to say good-bye.
7) One of the things that I realized—it used to be that you thought only countries had the ability to start a war. But we seem to have individuals who can cause as much destruction as any given battle. How did we get here? Are these attacks small individual wars? The US Pentagon has issued a report that climate change will most likely be the single biggest threat to national security, as it will create a further scarcity of resources in areas. And yet the conversations about the environment are often laced with with the feeling of helplessness, that nothing you do will be enough. And that is what we have to change.
At The Good Men Project, we continue to believe that change is possible. That we can co-create a future together. That we can change ourselves as individuals, we can partner with small groups, and we can change the narrative and the societal structures with large groups and other media companies. We can change the culture.
We talked about all this on today’s Good Men Project Friday Call With the Publisher because that is what we do—we take the really difficult topics, we discuss them, we share stories, we forge new paths for social change together.
Lisa Blacker set the tone for the call when she said “I am here because I want people I can talk to about these difficult issues.” We discussed how exhausting it all is, how easy it is to want to hide your head in the sand. Mike Kasdan said, “Along with the Twitter chat we had last night, we have been having a lot of conversations about racism. And I was talking to Kwame Brown, who speaks about race a lot, about how exhausting it all is. I was also talking about it in conjunction with the new information about the Jerry Sandusky case, that Joe Paterno knew years earlier than originally thought — are we really supposed to have the emotional bandwidth to go down this rabbit hole again? But Kwamie said, this is how change work. That feeling of exhaustion. the trying to convert conversations to actual actions. Mark Sherman talked about how the election back in the year 2000 for him was a turning point—we could have had a President who cared about environmental issues. We talked about the upcoming election, and a news media that allows racism and bigotry to be perpetuated. About politicians who don’t represent ALL of their constituents. About the marginalization and disenfrancisment of different social groups. We talked about Pokemon Go, and the ability to lose yourself in playing the game. Thaddeus Howze talked about it from the perspective of a black man: “In some ways because we live in the 21st century we see more of the world. As a result we are more fragile and more exposed. We think we see more random violence, but what we see is more random violence than controlled war—but it is not true that we live in more violent times…We have an obligation to NOT turn ourselves on all the time…You become exhausted and they win. We have to take care of ourselves. A a black man in America, we are always ready for a random act of violence. For you this is new. For us this life. if we don’t take care of ourselves. we won’t be able to make the changes we want.”
If you would like to join The Good Men Project weekly calls, please sign up as either a Bronze or Gold member here.
Also if you have a group, organization or non-profit that would like to learn more about “How to Create Social Change”, please consider having us teach an custom online workshop to your group. Details are here.
Soon after the call, I received an email with this quote. It reminds me to end on a note of hope:
“Take your eyes off the headlines and look deeply into the eyes of your fellow human beings. Bridge the divides between us with kindness.” — Adina Lewittes