A Nation Under Stress
No, thanks. I do not plan to discuss, certainly not defend, or attempt to defend the policemen—the five Black policemen—shown brutally beating, killing Black Tyre Nichols. I saw the video today.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—all of us have it, I believe. Some of us have it more severely than others; some of us have better means of treatment than others. Some of us are insulated in such a way that we can avoid many stresses, especially those that weigh down, those we cannot escape. But it seems living presents stress for all of us. Not surprisingly, some of us are certain we can/would bear a burden better than the person carrying it.
Today, I am listing stress that preoccupies much of my day and night. In no particular order, the list follows: sister living with me; brother coming to live with me; church; trying to get my money from Lowe’s, Coinstar, and Ashley/Tempurpedic; hair; essential tremors; writing biographies of two persons; writing my autobiography; writing group—desire for more writers, people who wish to read, people who wish to publish; chickens, crows destroying my yard; squirrels eating my flower bulbs; worrying about brothers and nephews; teeth; innumerable requests via cell, text, e-mail, and text; rising costs of just about everything I buy; innumerable requests for good causes; housework, all of which I hate; watching flowers die; will and final arrangements; friends in nursing/memory care—one has since died; not knowing why folks are angry with me; not being able to help folks I want to help. This was written very quickly. I know you may want more details. But I want you to get a glimpse of what is on my mind now.
I have never thought that I must brutalize someone because of any particular stress or combination of stresses above. I have never thought that I should kill someone because of this stress. I realize some of you have dismissed or solved my problems. Others of you may sympathize because you have had or have the same problems. What I do not know is why a problem that one of us sees as minor or easily dismisses wipes out another of us. I do not understand why some people think hurting themselves or others is acceptable. Hurting won’t make them feel better, won’t make the problem disappear.
Too often I think of the murdered and the murderers.
I want to ask the murderers how long they thought about the heinous deed. I don’t think Derek Chauvin, for instance, intended to kill George Floyd. I think Chauvin was annoyed with Floyd and wanted to teach Floyd a lesson. How often was Policeman Chauvin prosecutor, jury, and judge? Did he ever think he was wrong? Did he believe he was doing what policemen are charged to do? When he heard, “I can’t breathe,” did he think Floyd was attempting to trick him? Floyd had been accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill. $20! Chauvin thought this crime warranted deadly action? Does Chauvin believe he did the right thing? Would he act differently if he had the opportunity? Or did it never occur to him that he would never be punished? The body cameras were rolling; seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier’s cell phone was recording. Chauvin was not deterred. The officers onlooking were not moved to intervene. On the other hand, George Zimmerman and Dylan Roof knew people would be dead when they completed their tasks. I wish I could talk to them. I want to know why they hate Black so much that they feel compelled to kill them. The police told Zimmerman to leave Trayvon Martin alone. He was following seventeen-year-old Martin; Martin was not following him! Yet Zimmerman used the defense that he, Zimmerman, was afraid for his life! Worse, a jury agreed and acquitted Martin. In contrast, Roof went to a church he had most likely never visited; he was seeking persons to kill. I don’t understand how he could sit with people he did not know, people who had never done anything to him, people in Prayer Meeting with the intention of killing these people who did nothing but attempt to make him feel welcome. I am sure they prayed for him. Anyone can enter Prayer Meeting. Some visitors say nothing; others reveal why they are present, make requests. Some folks sit and listen. But Roof sat, all the time knowing he was going to kill all but one of these individuals; he wanted someone to tell the story. What had Roof seen? What had he been taught? What kinds of persons were in his environment? He is among many whose parents’ divorce, have one or two abusive parents. Most of us commit no such act. No relative, neighbor, or teacher bonded with him? No coach mentored him? Visiting Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has made me think of Roof more often. Recently I read that Roof says he has “no remorse” for killing people whom he himself said were innocent. He sees himself as superior to Black people. I wonder if it occurred to him that his actions would mean spending the remainder of his life imprisoned. Was his mind filled with thoughts of killing all Black people? He had Black friends in high school. What set him off? How did he arrive at the point of killing those people?
I ask these questions because the number of cold-blooded killings is rising. And though some murderers know their victims, others do not. We survivors must act soon. We must talk to people and listen to people. Stress in the form of mental illness and addiction to alcohol and drugs must be treated. Domestic abuse must be thwarted. Bullying must end. Discrimination of every kind must be called out. Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class, whatever makes any of us prejudiced against another of us because of differences or perceived differences is wrong, wrong, wrong. The sooner we act, the safer all of us will be. We must do what we can to reduce the stress.
~Georgia S. McDade
Georgia S. McDade, a charter member of the African-American Writers’ Alliance, began reading her stories in public in 1991 and credits the group with making her write poetry. Many poems are inspired by artists. Georgia writes for South Seattle Emerald and Leschinews. She also does interviews for KVRU (105.7) and KBCS (107.3). Outside the Cave is the name of four volumes of poetry; Observation and Revelations: Stories, Sketches, and Essays is the name of her volume of prose.