“I’d rather listen to your troubles than your eulogy”—my friends on Facebook have posted this. Strangers have shared this. Souls have whispered this in prayer, in hope, and in grief.
In a heartbeat, we would step up to help an individual from suicide, but, sadly, the sentiment disappears when it’s a group calling for help from a deadly pandemic or racism. We ignore the collective black voices that say “I fear I will be killed for looking black, for driving while black, for jogging while black, for bird watching while black.” Activists and allies describe how stressful and depressing it is to think that any interaction with a cop may turn deadly, but we don’t really want to hear those troubles.
Maybe we do listen, responding implicitly:
- I’d rather hear your eulogy than admit that even suspected criminals are deserving of due process, not execution by cops.
I’d rather hear your eulogy than question the actions of a cop.
I’d rather hear your eulogy than ask what could be done to reduce the danger that cops face due to firearms, and I’d rather hear a cop’s eulogy than enact sensible gun reform to make it less likely a suspect is armed with an easily concealed gun.
I’d rather hear your eulogy than see broken windows on Main Street.
I’d rather hear your eulogy than believe system racism exists, than understand that teaching white people about racism is work, than recognize the trauma you are living as you watch white people process and then dismiss the reality of fear you live.
I’d rather force you to protest during a pandemic and risk COVID-19 than hold the cops that shot Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Linden Cameron, and so many more accountable.
I’d rather hear your eulogy than engage in any change that makes me uncomfortable.
So many eulogies read too soon. So many eulogies still to come.
COVID-19 has given us so many eulogies too. Our newest global trouble is an airborne virus, and scientists have given us updated advice on how to slow the spread. Yet we do not listen. We’ll soon hum updated nursery rhymes, adding a positive spin on our 190,000+ dead.
We hear about each other's troubles, but we only begrudgingly, if at all, act to reduce this risk. We are hearing without listening. Instead, we write off those who died from COVID-19 as the previously walking dead. They were going to die anyway because they had pre-existing conditions. It’s Darwinism. It’s survival of the fittest. It was only a matter of time, so dry your tears. Those eulogies don’t count at all.
My death, if my body cannot handle COVID-19 if/when I get it, will be less tragic because my body takes up space. This body I inhabit is my pre-existing condition, and that will be the narrative. The narrative that I did not deserve your concern because of the fat that smooths out my hips and stomach, while others do not deserve your concern because they too have a body that is not pristine.
But at least you have your freedom to keep your lips and nose uncovered, declining America’s request that you do something for her. Just make sure you tell your neighbor, I’d rather see flowers on your casket than wear a mask.
Yet I’d rather become a more empathetic society than listen to so many eulogies. Our social contract already requires that we care for others, so let’s act like we do. None of us will make perfect decisions in this trying time. I know I have taken risks that I now question. We all will. We all must live with the level of risk we’re willing to accept, but we shouldn’t get to decide what risk level is acceptable for those around us. Wearing a mask is becoming woven into the societal contract. The least we can do is listen to scientists and follow their guidance and listen to the activists fighting for black lives.
Let’s show everyone that they matter.
If you ever need someone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is here for you 24/7, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Love to all.