Finding Peace in the Wake of Tragedy: Eric Garner's Death

Photo via the  L.A. Times

Photo via the L.A. Times

I’m not an outwardly political person. I don’t often weigh in on news, celebrity scandal or major jury decisions via Facebook or other social media sites. I tend to skirt the subject of politics when talking to people with whom I’m not extremely close. I worry about how others will perceive me if I voice my concerns over controversial issues. 

But, like so many other Americans, I cannot stay quiet right now. I feel compelled to speak out in the face of recent decisions over Eric Garner’s death.

If you’re unfamiliar with this story, take a few minutes to acquaint yourself, but beware that the video footage of Garner’s death is upsetting. Here are some pieces I found helpful or interesting when researching the topic.

I can’t begin to imagine the horrors many police officials have witnessed or been part of during their careers as law enforcers. I can only assume they filter each situation they find themselves in—as we all do—through their past experiences and the experiences of others they know. I guarantee the assumptions they make and the precautions they take when dealing with both threatening and non-threatening citizens is a result of their fear about being taken advantage of, injured or killed.

I don’t pretend to know the atrocities and violence inflicted on police officers or their loved ones as a result of the authority positions that place them in the path of severe criticism and danger.

But that being said, I also don’t buy the theory that we can’t judge the officials who unintentionally killed Garner simply because we haven’t walked in their shoes.

Yes, we can judge them. We can judge them because there is clear documented evidence of these police officers attacking an unarmed man on the sidewalk for no apparent reason. There is clear documented evidence of these police officers placing an innocent man in a prohibited chokehold and ignoring his struggle to breathe, ignoring his pleas for air and mercy.

I felt heartsick along with the rest of the nation after learning that a grand jury chose not to indict the officer who killed Garner. For a couple days, each time the television or my Facebook newsfeed reminded me of this injustice with new details in the case or a fiery opinion piece, I felt overcome with heaviness and sadness.

It’s moments like these that can cause even the most levelheaded and peaceful person to feel angry and disillusioned with the state of the world. That may sound dramatic. But that's because it is.

More than the indignation or the confusion, however, I think each of us feels an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

We feel helpless to help, helpless to act, helpless to make an impact. Somehow our sympathies—deep as they may extend—feel like insignificant, futile, vain gestures to bring about positive change.

But if there’s anything I know, it’s that change starts with the individual consciousness. Change starts by being aware of yourself and aware of the world around you. In times like these, when feeling lost and broken-hearted over a tragedy in the news becomes our default setting, it’s important to remember what we are capable of accomplishing.

It’s important to remember that we have the choice in every situation in our lives to teach love instead of fear. We have the option to act as lights that brighten this world filled with sudden, blanketing darkness. We have the power to spread joy through our behavior and our attitudes.

Let us use Eric Garner’s death as a reminder to radiate love wherever and to whomever we can. Let us honor his memory by being tools to fill this world with more consideration and less prejudice, more understanding and less confusion, more peace and less violence.

Be kind to everyone you meet. Try not to assume or condemn. Extend your compassion. Give without expectation. Listen without agenda.

Most importantly, forgive. Forgive the world and the people in it who cause you grief and unrest. Forgive yourself for passing judgments on these people. Release your hatred and your bitterness, which only serve to tether you to darkness.

Then move forward. Step into devastation and harmony equally with only love in your heart and your mind.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you say, strive to be the light and the love this world desperately needs. 


Update: this article has since been featured on the Huffington Post here.