Updated: Jun 11
I feel the world is shedding its skin this week.
There is anger and upheaval in many cities, triggered by the terrible death of George Floyd at the hands (well, knees) of Minneapolis police.
That video footage became a tipping point for many. Enough is enough, Irrespective of what events led to that moment it was sickeningly inhuman.
Snakes shed their skin because, unlike human skin, it doesn't grow as they do. Once it doesn't fit anymore, and that might be once, twice or even four times a year, they wrestle and wriggle their way out of it.
Into something that fits better and gives them room for growth.
Another benefit is that if there are any parasites residing in the old skin, they're shed as well. So it's a nice clean start for the host.
It so happens that this week I've been reading some fiction, which is unusual for me (of the 50+ books I read every year, perhaps only 1 or 2 would be fiction). It's James Patterson and Bill Clinton's The President Is Missing.
The very day of George Floyd's funeral I was on page 119 and I felt absolutely stirred as the "imaginary" world I was in blended surreally yet seamlessly with the "real" world.
"It's a battle as old as humanity -- us versus them. In every age and time, individuals, families, clans, and nations have struggled with how to treat the 'other'. In America, racism is our oldest curse. But there are other divides -- over religion, immigration, sexual identity. Sometimes the 'them' strategy is just a narcotic to feed the beast in all of us. All too often, those who rail against 'them' prevail over earnest pleas to remember what 'we' can be and do together. Our brains have worked this way for a long time. Maybe they always will. But we have to keep trying. That's the permanent mission our Founding Fathers left us -- moving toward the 'more perfect union'."
I don't know who wrote that, Clinton or Patterson. But clearly it's a point one or both of those privileged white men felt needed making.
So here we are, as restless populations around the world call for that more perfect union, where Black Lives Matter. A rally cry which speaks for all repressed citizens regardless of colour, I believe..
Because we all want to be heard. To believe that we count. That our time on this earth matters.
And the skin of the 'old' world was not fitting so well anymore. It had to be shed. And Floyd's death was the signal for the change of season.
We can't change history, but we can change our perspective on it. To see statues of slave traders being toppled or removed across Britain and Europe seems like a no-brainer in this modern context. We co-existed with the discomfort and awkwardness of this history for a long time as sensibilities changed, and new voices were found.
Even though I come from a long line of British colonialists and adventurers in Africa, dating back 200 years and closely involved with Cecil Rhodes, I am totally comfortable with the proposal to remove his statue from Oxford University now, because it is symbolic of oppression to many people way smarter, better looking, and better qualified than me.
(I was secretly thrilled to discover recently that my DNA contains 2% Southern African Hunter/Gatherer plus 1% Indian and 1% Chinese and a whole lotta Viking. It made me feel less vanilla and more officially like the global citizen I am. I also have a beautiful grandson who has 70-75% Filipino blood.)
The times have changed. The world has changed. We need to move on in our new skin.
Another book I've just added to the million or so on my 'want-to-read' wishlist is Manifesto for a Moral Revolution by Jacqueline Novogratz. I believe a moral revolution is needed in many ways so we can fix this beautiful but broken world.
George Floyd's shocking sacrifice was a symbol for all similar sacrifices. That's why I believe it's resonated so strongly and sparked the scenes we've seen.
His horrifyingly hashtag-ready words of "I can't breathe" summed up how millions or possibly billions around the world feel. Mentally, physically, spiritually.
Then to have 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silent reflection at his funeral was to underscore what an eternity that time period is (if you've ever offered a minute's silence you'll know how long even that void feels).
I am hopeful this is a watershed moment, a rebirth of sorts, but certainly several strong steps toward a more perfect union.
Most importantly I hope that you feel comfortable in your own skin.