Grief and healing and why I love this country

People dear to me have endured a lot just to have the privilege of living in this country. They are survivors, not just of a dangerous…

People dear to me have endured a lot just to have the privilege of living in this country. They are survivors, not just of a dangerous journey to come but of the cruelty of their own countries’ governments who pushed so hard as to uproot them.

Being uprooted is not the worst, if you choose to, as I did. I don’t want to imagine being forced to flee from war or terrorism, or Socialism. I left a place that was being consumed but is still there.

The experience of moving to a different country has ups and downs but I can honestly say I wouldn’t have thought it better.

My own extended family has a history of resettling in this great country dating to the 1950s. And although I haven’t formally interviewed any of them to ask, I attribute the successes and good lives they’ve had to their hard work and will to become part of and fully embrace the culture. They became their new place and loved it so it became their own.

One of the things that I find most beautiful when I walk the streets of my new city is how proudly folks display the national flag. Old Glory is a symbol of people working hard, finding new frontiers of land and science, founding beautiful cities and creating beautiful works of art and architecture.

It is also a symbol of starting small and overcoming hardship.

All of those values will prove very useful in the coming months.

COVID has been devastating, not only for lives tragically lost but for the destruction of the economy and the enormous transfer of wealth from the small to the big.

Social unrest has highlighted horrible injustices and exposed the system’s flaws. The conversation has turned violent and it seems no one is listening.

This will become a pep talk eventually so read on.

A healthy system is one that allows tiny subsystems to spawn and grow. It applies to cities, when new autonomous hamlets or towns emerge and are taken in as components that reinforce the regional network. It applies to economics, when new units appear to compete in or complement the market and they are welcome, both as supplemental entities and for strengthening the entire ecosystem.

Provided those systems do not have blockers intended to «redirect» or plan growth, that would be the normal cycle. But no. We have chosen to privilege bigness because we’ve started to value efficiency over quality. We have chosen to privilege big corporations -private and public- over humanity. Efficiency works in high volume so never mind a little waste. In the case of cities and economies, «waste» means families left behind and businesses destroyed. Lives destroyed.

That is the climate right now. That is the context in which COVID came and social unrest came and the response was one of bigness. We started speaking in many trillions where small businesses and families needed a few thousands to get by. And matching those two scales requires an absurdly gigantic apparatus that is very costly and in its bigness generates waste. Lives destroyed.

We started speaking in absolutes but life and nature have no perfect circles, no straight lines and no single hue colors. Climbing high to try to encompass all in perfect square boxes also produces waste. Lives destroyed.

Which brings me back to the flag and the pride and starting small through hardship and adversity. I walk the streets and I see pride but I also see grief. I have seen months of mourning. Half masted flags all over.

We need grief. The death toll from COVID and systemic brutality has been too high but mourning is a process, not a permanent state. It has stages. We move through them. We must move through them so we emerge and prevail.

Long periods if grief are usual in staunch Catholic cultures so I am used to them. García Márquez in One Hundred Years Of Solitude describes it beautifully, with black as the only color to be seen, heavy black cloth covering mirrors and other house objects and a black cloak covering life, for a year. For years.

I have seen too many people swallowed in a neverending grief, who never came back. the black cloak or a half-mast. More lives destroyed, this time by choice.

Emerging from that process, channeling the energy of starting small and building character and pride in the wake is hard. As with any grief process, it is hard but must be done. Emerging and the opportunity to build back is the promise that America has always made my family. And it has delivered. The flag flying high and proud is a symbol of that, which will come back.

It’s time to honor the dead and never forget them. To say their names and build and knit and create in their memory. Community and inclusion and identity and pride can be restored by going back to humble beginnings, hopeful beginnings, free beginnings.

I humbly ask we bring the flags back up to full mast.