“I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.” – Chief Joseph
Last night I checked my Facebook around 9 PM and read an update from a friend regarding looting, and another update expressing concern for the police. I immediately understood I was missing a major breaking news story and turned on CNN. All eyes were on Ferguson.
I started watching the news after the verdict announcement was made, and just before the real rioting started. I watched the crowds get tear gassed, I watched the flash bangs. I watched people running in fear. Every reporter was visibly shaken, it was impossible to be calm. Cars were on fire, buildings were on fire. I was in tears watching the scene unfold and I wasn’t even there. The violence and anger were real, and I could feel it.
I went back to Facebook and saw even more updates on Ferguson. Mostly people’s opinions on the matter. And they were angry. SO angry. People judging and cursing the protesters. Other people judging and cursing the people judging and cursing the protesters. Posting articles that proved only their opinion was right. Sharing pictures and memes attacking the ‘other’ side’s view point. The violence and anger were real, and I could feel it.
Yes, I said violence. You can be just as violent with your thoughts and words as you can with your hands and fists. The streets of Ferguson were filled with rage last night, and so was the internet. Screaming, threatening, judging, demeaning, alienating, labeling, accusing; all fearful reactions to the fearful scene we saw unfolding on our television screens.
Besides absolute heartbreak, my first thought last night was of my daughter. She is going to grow up in this world and terrible things are going to happen. It is my responsibility to explain these things to her in a healthy way. The weight of that responsibility is something that sits heavy on my shoulders.
My second thought last night was one word, ahimsa. When I learned about ahimsa in my yoga teacher training it felt like coming home. All the sudden I had this word, and it was everything I believed in but didn’t know there was a word for. When my teacher described ahimsa, I was screaming “yes, yes, YES” inside my mind because it was exactly how I felt. I believe in ahimsa. It is what I want to be, how I want to live my life, how I want to treat others, and how I want to be treated.
Ahimsa is non-violence to all sentient beings by thought, word or action.
Thought, word or action.
No violent thoughts. No violent words. No violent actions.
The violence in the streets of Ferguson needs to stop. The violence online needs to stop. We are only feeding the beast. It is okay to disagree with each other, it is okay to be angry and scared, it is okay to be disappointed in the protestors or the police. Just know every negative, discriminatory status you post online fuels the fire in Ferguson. You don’t need to hash it out online. You need to hash it out in your heart. Sit with your anger, frustration and fear. Try to understand it. Use this as an opportunity to grow and make a positive change in our world, not shrink away in darkness.
Personally, I am using this as an opportunity to bring awareness to the belief of non-violence. And to also reignite my practice of ahimsa. I believe that once we find peace in our own selves there will be peace in our world.
I still don’t know how I would explain what is happening in Ferguson to my daughter. This involves race, death, the legal system, our government, segregation…murky waters I still can’t wrap my head around.
What I do know is that peace is possible, and it starts with us. So I will tell her this:
Baby, I believe in peace. And I believe in you. ‘Bad’ things are going to happen, there is no getting away from it. That’s why it’s so important to be kind to everyone sweet girl, and I mean EVERYONE. Inside of you there is a power greater than any ‘bad’ thing in this world, and thats love. All it takes is one person seeing you treat others with love and kindness, and you can change their mind. Your love will ripple through your family, your friends and touch people you don’t even know. You can change the world baby, with one act of kindness. Don’t ever forget how important you are.