Tragedy is part of the human experience. We have all experienced a personal tragedy, a community tragedy, a national tragedy, or a global tragedy at some point. Sometimes all at once. They can be caused by natural disasters or take the form of human constructions (sometimes both). The tragedy of October 7th that sparked the current Israel-Hamas war is entirely human in its creation. And while the event itself was horrifying at the time for the people who lived through it, the aftermath has been horrifying to me.
There's a particular flavor in the way that attack on that date is being discussed by some media outlets and many Israeli mouthpieces which is both incomplete and dangerous. To hear some folks explain it, the events of October the 7th were a completely isolated incident that came out of nowhere. As if nothing came before which might have contributed to its occurrence. It is also the same way the news frames almost any riot or violent protest demanding police accountability or human rights: completely without regard for any of the tragedy that came before.
It feels especially important to discuss this framing phenomenon during this week because it is Feast Week in the US. The official name for this holiday is Thanksgiving and it's origins have been used as a mechanism to whitewash the American genocide of native people. The context-free discussions about the October 7th violence are identical to the way some sections of US American Indian history is told. There are plaques around the country commemorating the deaths of white American settlers at the hands of vicious Indians. Never mind these incidents happened after and in response to brutality and settlers forcibly confiscating and setting on native land.
I have re-shaped my November harvest feast holiday to include truth, acknowledgement, and activism. That's not the prevailing practice, so I put in deliberate effort to choose a different kind of participation. I had to acknowledge the complete horrifying history to fully see the through-line in today's societal systems which continue to cover up what really happened. It's not in the interests of capitalism or the status quo for people to opt-out of the chummy, white savior first thanksgiving narrative. But it is necessary for healing. My own healing, community healing, and healing the world.
Another opportunity for reflection this week was Monday's Trans Day of Remembrance. Losing a friend or loved one or community member is always sad. Losing someone you care about because they couldn't find a way to keep on living or because someone else didn't want them to exist is nothing short of tragic. A lot of things coalesce to create these tragedies. They are not isolated incidents. It's critical to look beyond the incident itself and identify its roots. That's the only way we can hope to create change.
So as you roast your turkey and mash your potatoes, or while you ignore the holiday and do literally anything else with your Thursday, please take a moment to consider everything that lead up to this moment in time. Remember it is possible to both recognize your own pain as well as the acknowledge the suffering of others. Figure out how to cultivate empathy and understanding for oppressed people lashing-out instead of judgement or reproach for desperate people employing desperate measures. Learn about the suffering other people experience. Read a book, watch a documentary, talk to a friend. Then decide how to live differently now that you know what's still going on for someone else.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.