The events of the past three months have left me at a loss for words. It’s been difficult to write, feeling like everything I came up with was just trite or unimportant or not impactful enough. I know I’m not alone. Most of my writer friends feel the same way as we cast about for the perfect set of words that will honorably bear witness to the daily scenes of pain, despair and outrage. We cast about and then chastise ourselves for coming up short. (Offering ourselves compassion and grace is a whole ‘nother blog…)
Yet, one word echoes in my head and rumbles through my body – debridement. The process of removing dead tissue, especially hidden pockets of infection, from deep wounds so that the remaining living tissue can have a chance to heal.
I’ve experienced the debridement of a wound and can attest to the painfully gross process of ripping off scabs and removing infected skin. Afterward, my doctor was relentless in reminding me to be patient, that the healing would be slow, that it would take time for my deep wound to heal from the inside out. And that’s the other phrase that echoes around me, healing from the inside out.
I believe we are experiencing the debridement of our social contract. Together, the death of George Floyd and the global pandemic have ripped open the wounds of our society, exposing deep pockets of long-held racial, economic and gender inequality; festering wounds beneath our societal norms.
As a child, I watched John Kennedy’s funeral from our cold, dark basement while tears streamed down my mother’s face as she quietly ironed my father’s shirts. I learned the world was an unsafe place. As a teen, I watched the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy – grainy black and white images of crystal-clear loss and sorrow. I learned the world was an unjust and hateful place. Still, as I grew into adulthood, I carried the belief that our generation would change the world in a radical way. I’ve written before about how disappointed I am and that the progress we’ve made is not nearly enough.
Watching the protests over the past few weeks brought back those images of my teen years and at first, I cynically questioned if they would have an impact. Yet, this feels different. It looks different. The diversity of protesters and the continued outrage gives me hope; hope that this time, the wounds that have been ripped open are going deep enough to be seen for what they are and will stay exposed long enough to heal from the inside.
This is an individual journey as I look deep within for the complicity I’ve played in the system of injustice. I want to listen and learn and embrace the discomfort that comes with change. It’s also our nation’s journey as we collectively expose our wounds and embrace a process that creates a healthier society that honors each one of us.
I hear people say they want to go back to normal. That’s not going to happen. Normal got blown up and tossed to the wind. And I don’t want the normal of inequality. I want a new social structure that embraces justice and heals us as a nation with empathy and compassion and caring. The act of debridement is painful. It’s ugly. It’s slow. It will hurt for a long time. Yet, the act is one of healing the disease so we can start anew.
Dig in. Dig deep. We need to heal.