I Still Have A Crush On Val Kilmer

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. ~John Lennon

Tonight I finally had a chance to watch a movie I have been curious about for a while. It’s a documentary about Val Kilmer, simply titled Val. The film is a combination of video Kilmer shot himself, long before the days of camera phones during the time when memories were recorded on large, clunky video recorders with footage that ended up on large, clunky VHS tapes, and more recent footage taken of him. Kilmer had a bout with throat cancer from 2015 to 2017. Chemotherapy and two tracheotomies stole his voice and left him with a hole in his throat through which he breathes and feeds himself. It’s sobering to watch the juxtaposition in footage between a handsome, winsome leading man and a man with tracheostomy tube who now travels the country to sign autographs at events like Comic Con. It’s a stark reminder of how life works.

Kilmer is eight years older than I am, and I had a crush on him from his first feature film, Top Secret, in 1984 when I was 16. He had an on-screen charisma that came at me like a freight train. After Top Secret, I went to see him in Real Genius, a film I have seen at least a dozen times now and still adore. I saw Top Gun because he was in it (I never cared much for Tom Cruise, always preferring blond men) and then I went to see him in Willow, The Doors, Tombstone, and Batman Forever. There was something about him, a depth that you don’t often see in handsome, Hollywood-leading-man types. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was there.

Watching Val, I found that depth again. At times it was hard to tell if the recent footage of him was him being himself and living his life with a camera recording it or him playing a character, a Hollywood star who survives cancer only to realize he’s lost the only career he ever wanted. Whether or not he was a “difficult” actor because he cared about the craft of acting and telling a story is up for debate, but I get the sense from the film that Val’s perfectionism regarding his chosen profession likely ruffled feathers. After Batman Forever, a film that was a big commercial success, he turned down the title role in the sequel because his experience in the first film, being cramped and miserable in a suit that barely allows you to stand or move without help, much less hear or breathe well, was simply not an opportunity with growth potential. But, you don’t get to turn down a request to reprise your role as Batman without fallout.

I don’t want to say anything else about Val himself or the film because I believe art is best left to be interpreted by each individual their own way. What I can say is that the real life struggles of the man behind the actor are profound and, in many ways, universal. As I watched, I was struck by how ephemeral it all is. How we think we have all the time in the world for our passions, our work, our loves, our family, and our own self-development and growth, when we have no control at all over any of it. Ever. One day you’re creating what you hope will be the pinnacle of your life’s work. The next, you grapple with the knowledge it’s gone and can never be resurrected.

We don’t have all the time in the world to live out our dreams. Each day we have that day and nothing more. It’s what we do in the aftermath of when our dreams fall apart that matters. Val founded a creative studio in Los Angeles and created a film about his life thus far. He may have difficulty speaking aloud and being understood, but I suspect he is not finished trying to express himself through art.

From Outer Terrorism To Inner Terrorism In 20 Years

I have been thinking all day about what to write here. I debated telling my story of what this date was for me 20 years ago, when I was a new mother holding a healthy infant son and staring in horror at the news as the World Trade Center towers fell. But it seems unimportant what a mother in Denver felt or experienced that day when so many other people suffered and lost so much more than the security they felt in their naïveté about the world.

Steve and I have spent tonight watching the National Geographic special 9/11: One Day in America. It’s a gut wrenching, impactful and, at times, hopeful watch, full of a great deal of never-before-seen footage of that day. It’s made me think about how grateful I am to be here. I’m grateful that I was not a person with a direct connection to anyone who perished that day. I’m grateful for all the first responders who saved countless lives that day. I’m grateful that the actions of the heroes of United Flight 93 thwarted the last of the terrorists’ plans, grateful that their bravery saved our Capitol. I’m grateful I was able to visit New York City and the 9/11 Memorial for the first time a few months ago with my sister and my sons. I’m grateful that we were able to pull together in the days, weeks, and months after the attack and find a way out of mourning and into survival. I’m grateful for anyone who had a hand in saving people that day, cleaning up the remnants of that loss, and creating a meaningful memorial for remembrance.

Yet in the midst of all this gratitude, in the back of my mind, remains this thought. Anti-American terrorists took so much and so many from us that day, but their barbaric plans and actions also gave us a gift. They reminded us how good we can be. In the twenty years since that day, we have done more to destroy our nation than those terrorists did. On January 6th, our own citizens damaged the Capitol that Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Tom Burnett gave their lives to save. How do we save our nation this time? Can we?

It’s About Time To Call It

Under siege

Thirteen days. That’s how long it took for us to get a message from Luke’s school that he has been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19. We have very little concern that he actually contracted Covid-19. First, he had it last fall. Second, he’s been vaccinated. Third, his high school has a high rate of vaccinations among students. Fourth, the students wear masks inside classrooms. Fifth, Luke has a suspicion about which classmate might be Patient 0, and he knows he had no direct contact with them. So, we’re probably safe, but Luke will get tested tomorrow just in case.

I knew that Covid-19 would affect this school year, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be as impactful as it was last year. In April and May when the US was vaccinating millions of people per day, I got my hopes up that maybe this fall at least could be somewhat more normal for students. Maybe they could be back in classrooms. Maybe they wouldn’t need to be masked. But then the vaccinations slowed to a trickle, and I knew we might end up right back in the same boat. It’s not the same boat, though. Last year, there was no vaccine available, so our boat was lost on tempest tossed seas and we were all in it together, not knowing when we might be able to get back to normal. This year, we got vaccines to help get us on the right track, but they only work if the vast majority of the population gets them. Since so many people decided to opt out, our boat has leaks. So here we are again. As the more transmissible Delta variant rages through the population, sending many of the unvaccinated to hospitals, we’re now fighting about mask mandates and vaccine mandates, public health versus personal freedom. It’s crazy. We’re our own worst enemies because we’re anything but united right now.

I’ve been noticing this week how much we’ve become a nation of people out for themselves. I see it when I am driving. I see it in stores. I see it everywhere I go. We’ve become a nation of people more concerned with personal freedom than the freedom of the country as a whole. Covid-19 is our mutual enemy, but some people don’t see it that way. They think the government and their fellow citizens are the enemy. Until we get ourselves collected and facing the same direction, I will probably be getting more notices from my son’s school.

As I recall the events of 9/11 and our unity on that day, I am heartbroken looking at our country now. How far we have fallen in twenty years. If an attack like the one that happened then occurred now, I’m not certain we would see the same cooperation and personal sacrifice that we saw that day and in the days and weeks following. Twenty years from now, we may still be a nation, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to say we are a great one. Once we’ve lost the ability to selflessly do for others in our communities, to step up when our government is asking us, to get a vaccine or wear a mask because it might save someone else, we can’t really call ourselves the United States of America.

Sell Crazy Someplace Else

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

The country has gone crazy. Or perhaps some people in our society have. Up is down. Wrong is right. Bad actors are victims. I just can’t anymore. It’s like I’m reading George Orwell’s 1984 again. We have a lot of different opinions and viewpoints in this country, and you should expect that in a nation with a population as varied as ours is. There is now and has always been dissent in the United States. While we don’t all agree on many things, we used to agree that our government and its buildings are sacred and worth protecting. We lost our collective mind when terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon and then learned they had also planned to take down the Capitol. We were so incensed that we went to war about it. American soldiers died because of it. You don’t mess with our institutions. I used to believe we were all on the same page about this.

On January 6th, I had a television news station on while I was sitting at home doing a puzzle. I expected that there might be some hullaballoo around the certification of the election results, so I was listening to it from the other room because I was curious. All I had planned to do was listen. And then I heard the voice of a news anchor note they had just evacuated Mike Pence from the chamber. That got my attention, so I walked into the living room to see what was going on. For the next five hours, no puzzle pieces were placed. I was glued with rapt attention to the chaos I saw unfolding onscreen. I watched as people beat their way past barricades, used any implement they could find to shatter glass, and then crawled their way in through broken windows into the seat of our government. I stood there, head shaking, incredulous for hours. It felt surreal. Tear gas being unleashed. People climbing the Capitol like it was play equipment in their backyard. I wouldn’t have been any more upset or befuddled or shocked if I had seen wild animals from the African sub-continent barreling their way into that building. I was sad and I was scared, scared for the people inside the building, scared about what it meant about our one nation, supposedly indivisible.

In the days and weeks following the attack, I saw more video footage emerge. I saw footage of a Capitol police officer discharging his weapon as someone attempted to crawl through a broken section of a barricaded door outside the House chamber. I saw footage of a man bragging that he had stolen mail from the desk of Speaker of the House and left her a nasty note. I saw footage of men rifling through pages on desks where our lawmakers had recently been There was footage of congressmen and congresswomen being hastily led down back staircases to avoid the combatants. There was video of members of Congress hiding on the floor in the balcony, gas masks at the ready. There was footage of rioters chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Hell, the FBI has a tip page loaded with videos and photos of rioters from that day that you can look at right now. Exactly eight months later, we have a preponderance of video and photographic proof of what unfolded that day. Still, some would have you believe you didn’t see what you did. It was a peaceful protest, they say. There were just a few bad actors. It’s all been blown way out of proportion. Some of these people weren’t even our people, they say, despite a lack of sufficient evidence to back their claim. They say these things and they assume that if they repeat them often enough you will come to believe them, come to question what you know you saw and to accept their alternate version of the truth of what happened before our eyes that day.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.”

In the months since that attack on the Capitol, various rioters have been arrested and charged because of the overwhelming evidence on video footage from that day. Now there is another rally planned for the Capitol, a Justice for J6 rally, on September 18th. There will be a march to the Capitol again. This is not to Stop the Steal, but to seek “justice” for those who viciously beat police officers with flagpoles and hockey sticks, ransacked the Capitol causing over 1.5 million in damage, actively sought to harm members of Congress, the Speaker, and the Vice President, and were then held accountable according to the laws of these United States. You just can’t even. I’m shaking my head again.

And all of this leads me to where I landed tonight after learning more about the next rally at the Capitol. It leads me to the film As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson, because you just can’t add more crazy to what is already batshit lunacy. If an alien ship were to hover above my house tonight, open its bottom hatch, and turn on its light beam in preparation to suck me into their dimension, I would utter this line from that movie:

“Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Being some of the only truly intelligent life in the universe, they would turn off the light, close the hatch, zip away, and never return. Ain’t nothing to see here, folks.

The Red Shirt Nation

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~Albert Einstein

Another mass shooting in the news today, this one in Florida. There are no words to describe my sadness, disgust, anger, and frustration over this never-ending story. One stupid man killed four people before giving himself up to authorities. Why do we as a country put up with this? Is it really because we believe the right to own a gun supercedes the right to feel safe moving about in our society, to go grocery shopping, to attend school, to see a film or concert without worrying it might be the last thing we do? Is it really because we think this is a “mental health” issue and not a gun issue at all? I think it’s fair also to say that anyone who would arm up and go kill other people has some mental trouble. But I don’t think you can claim this person was insane when he was sane enough to put on body armor before cowardly murdering unarmed people, including a mother and her infant child who was found dead in her arms. An eleven year old girl was shot multiple times and is expected to survive, but you can only imagine what this will do to her mental well being. The Florida guy claimed he was on methamphetamines. Being hopped up on drugs might be another explanation for his murderous shooting spree. But the bottom line is this keeps happening because as a nation we don’t seem to care about it. Mass shootings and gun deaths are just part of what we get as part of our Freedom Package in this country. You’re free to own as many guns and as much ammunition as you want. You’re also free to be gunned down at any point by a fellow citizen. Brilliant.

I scrolled past fourteen news stories on the CNN app, including one about how Tom Brady had Covid at one point (yawn), before finding the report about this shooting. We are so used to this shit that it’s hardly news anymore. It’s simply what is. We see the story and there is no surprise, shock, or outrage. We just shrug. And half the population says, “Well, it’s just a mental health issue,” while the other half of the populations says, “I’d like there to be some change around this, but we can’t get by the gun lobby so I guess we’re stuck.” Stuck, indeed.

2021 is on track to be the deadliest year for gun violence yet. I’m sure the reasons for this are myriad and complicated. Can we do better? I’d like to say yes, but so far we can’t get our spineless leaders in Congress to work together to make any changes (including something like putting more money towards mental health care) that might start to put a dent in these endless tragedies.

So, I’m left with this conclusion. As a nation, we are sick. Only a sick population would believe that there is not one good goddamned thing we can do to ameliorate this preponderance of gun violence. Only a sick population would accept that we or someone we love might be next. Only a sick population would decide putting kindergarteners through active shooter drills makes more sense than trying to reduce gun deaths. We are seriously ill. We are the only ones who can make us better. We are simply too fucked up to do it.

A Stone’s Throw Away From Compassion

I’m a little riled up over the continued erosion of the constitutional right guaranteed to women in 1973 courtesy of the Roe v. Wade decision. I can’t believe we are still talking about a woman’s right to manage what is going on in her own reproductive system. It’s 2021, but we seem to be moving in retrograde.

In 1973, there were nine men on the Supreme Court. Seven of them voted in favor of Jane Roe, and six of those men were Republican. But, for the past 48 years, conservative religious groups have made it their steadfast goal to overturn the decision of those men. And each and every year in recent memory, conservative states have worked to make obtaining an abortion virtually impossible despite its legality. From instituting mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods to discourage women, to slowly diminishing the number of abortion clinics (six states currently only have one abortion clinic) to create a logistical obstacle, women’s right to choose is slowly slipping away state by state. Outlawing abortion, however, does not solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies. We could greatly reduce the number of abortions in this country if we made reliable birth control widely available and affordable. But since many religious groups also believe any form of birth control is anathema and instead promote an abstinence-as-birth-control stance that simply does not work for most humans at sexual maturity, it seems to me that abortions must remain legal.

At its heart, the current abortion debate centers around the religious views of some being imposed upon all women, whether or not they hold those same beliefs. When Governor Abbott of Texas signed their latest, most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on Wednesday, he said, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” What does the “Creator” have to do with citizen rights in a country that was built around the separation of church and state? Religious communities have decided that life begins at conception, making abortion akin to murder. As a non-religious woman, however, I believe that life begins when the fetus is able to survive outside the uterus, which falls somewhere after 24 weeks in most cases. And, even then, a baby delivered at 24 weeks will need medical intervention to thrive. If we agree that a fetus is dependent upon the woman serving as host for its survival until it can viably exist outside the womb, then its rights should not surpass the rights of the woman carrying it. In this case, the chicken comes before the egg.

A plurality of Americans support Roe v. Wade, and a minority are pushing to expunge it. That seems undemocratic to me. If you think abortion is murder, don’t have one. No one is forcing you to abandon a pregnancy you would maintain. And unless your religious group is planning to financially support all the future babies it wants to save from abortion, then we’re kind of stuck because it seems the people who are against abortion are also against creating a welfare state or funding Medicare for all so the baby will have guaranteed healthcare or ensuring affordable childcare so women can work to support the life they must keep. Children are expensive.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I would deny no one their right to practice their own faith according to their beliefs. If you follow Jesus or Buddha or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s no business of mine. If your faith says abortion is a grievous sin, you are free to make your sexual and reproductive decisions accordingly. That said, however, I’ll need to you to keep your faith off the body of anyone who isn’t you. You have a right to your religious beliefs, but you don’t have a right to impose them on anyone else, least of all a woman who needs your faithful compassion rather than your judgment. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

An Open Letter to Senator Josh Hawley, (R-MO)

Screen capture courtesy of my iPhone

Dear Senator Hawley,

My family and I got Covid-19 last November. We had been careful, wearing masks everywhere, not eating out or going to movies or malls, even having all our groceries delivered and left on our front doorstep. In the end, despite our diligence, we likely contracted Covid-19 when our masked son, who was working as a volunteer, came in contact with an out-of-state visitor who refused to wear a mask while visiting Dinosaur Ridge. Joe argued that asking others, who had blatantly disregarded signage about state mask mandates, to don masks was above his volunteer pay grade. We agreed. So, he got sick first and then we all did. We had mild cases, for which we were deeply grateful. After our two week quarantine period was up, however, we noticed we weren’t bouncing back to our usual healthy selves. Weeks after we had resumed our now normal distanced and masked lives, we noticed we were struggling through exercise and having greater difficulty catching our breath. We were constantly tired, and our senses of taste and smell had not fully returned to normal. Nine months later, three out of the four of us still don’t have our taste and smell back to our pre-Covid experience. Covid can leave a mark.

Despite being a Covid-19 survivor and having had a positive test for antibodies in mid March, I got the vaccine. I had no concerns about its efficacy or safety. I am not a scientist, but I understand how science works. If physicians and researchers who dedicated their lives to eradicating viruses were lining up to get the vaccine, it was safe. I didn’t give it a second thought. I wanted normal life back. I too wanted to get rid of my mask. So, by mid April my husband and I were fully vaccinated, and our teenage sons followed suit by early May. When the CDC decided that vaccinated people could take off their masks, we were thrilled and nervous. We resumed our mask-free lives, relatively hopeful that others would step up for vaccines and we would all be safe from Covid soon.

But that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen because half the nation decided to think about getting vaccinated while the more virulent Delta strain ravaged India. All the warning signs were there. We knew Delta was beginning to increase infections in the US, but the unvaccinated weren’t concerned. And Fox News and Republican politicians like you raised no alarms. You instead bolstered doubt by politicizing the push for vaccines as something dubious that the Democrats had up their sleeves. You pushed the notion that freedom means not having to get a life-saving vaccine or wear a stupid, goddamn cloth mask (which, by the way, most four year olds I’ve seen can manage better than right-wing conservatives). As Delta started turning your state into a Covid nightmare for your hospitals, the CDC had to reverse course on the mask mandate. Masks were needed again because Delta, with its higher rate of transmission, was burning through the population and creating an unnecessary burden on our hospitals and health care professionals.

So, let’s get something straight. The mask wearing the CDC is recommending is about politics. We have to go back to wearing masks because conservatives refused to get vaccinated before Delta took hold. You all had months to do this. Months. Vaccines were being tossed in the garbage because you would not get the shots. People around the world were desperately clamoring for vaccinations, but spoiled, selfish, and self-righteous Americans were turning up their noses at them. And, thus, Delta came calling, you all kept spreading, and now masks are back. This is not a flip flop by the CDC. This is a revision in advice because of a precipitous increase in Covid-19 cases due to a more virulent strain. And that, my friend, rests mostly on you and your unvaccinated acolytes.

As to your hyperbolic complaint that we will be forced to wear masks indefinitely, no one knows if that will come to fruition. But viruses do have time to mutate and become more deadly while their hosts are busy hemming and hawing about vaccine safety and using politics to cast doubt on science. So, if there does come a day when we all have to wear masks indefinitely to stave off deadly, airborne viruses, I will be looking at you, Senator. Well, the part of you I can see under your mask, anyway.

Even in an empty stadium, the spectacle of the Olympics was amazing.

Okay, I was a little bah humbug, face-down-in-a-bathtub-full-of-vodka with my post yesterday. And for good reason. Watching the deleterious effects of climate change occur in real time is devastating. But today I decided to take a break from reality and tuned into the last bit of the Olympics from Tokyo.

I am not a big Olympics fan. Our oldest son, though, is a huge fan of them. He says it’s because there are a lot of varied sports, and it’s amazing to watch the best of the best competing against each other. I think it’s because he a student of the world and he loves the countries, the costumes, and the flags. Oh, the flags! At any rate, he had the Olympics turned on in our house from day one of competition. He turned them on every day. Often I would come out of my room and see him perched on the couch, and he would try to teach me about water polo. And as the days went by and I saw his excitement about them, I tuned in more, partially to spend some time with him before he heads back to college and partially because, dammit, he got me caught up in the magic of it.

I found myself tonight watching the Closing Ceremony in tears. I love watching the athletes relish their last Olympic moments because, after all the competition has ceased, they are finally free to relax and enjoy themselves. And before the Olympics started they were so busy training and preparing. The Closing Ceremony must be a huge exhale. But as I watched the ceremony, I kept thinking that despite the precarious state of life on this planet, we are all tied together and maybe we will yet be able to do better together. If we are able to hold an Olympics during a worldwide pandemic, maybe we aren’t doomed? And Paris 2024? Come on! We have to stay around for that. We can’t possibly miss that.

I found myself singing these lyrics from The Police tonight because they make the most sense about why I would watch the Olympics when I normally don’t:

“When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.”

The Olympics are the best of what is still around. All these nations, all these athletes, participating together, celebrating together, working together, playing together. It’s the most optimistic thing we do as a planet.

Nihilism Is No Place To Live

“Always look on the bright side of life.” ~Monty Python

The news is bad. The United States continues to be deeply ideologically divided, but it doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you are on because the news from any angle these days is depressing. The Delta variant is exploding in unvaccinated communities, and now the CDC is saying that it is as contagious as chicken pox and even vaccinated individuals are capable of passing it along to others. The fires in the west are consuming towns, and people on the east coast are seeing and breathing their toxic smoke. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at dangerous and historic lows as most of the western United States is experiencing an extreme drought. I could go on and on describing the news I see in my feed each day, but I am trying to keep myself off antidepressants and away from the brink of alcoholism, and you probably are trying to shake off all the bad news anyway.

This morning I was discussing these things with my 18 year old son. I told him that right now the United States is a shitshow and I need to stop reading the news altogether and crawl into a mental cave to save what little sanity I have left. He surprised me by responding this way.

I prefer not to think of the US as a shitshow I prefer to think of it as a fixer upper. Shitshow implies it is a pointless endeavor to try to fix anything. Yeah. Things are hard. But there are things that can be done to fix it. It won’t be easy, but we can’t give up. If we decide things are hopeless, we become nihilists, and that is no way to live.

Man, that kid is something else. But he’s right. As part of Gen Z, these problems are his future inheritance. What kind of parent am I if I am living in a place of doom and gloom and talking to him about them without any sort of optimism or vision? Messaging matters. We adults need to revise our talking points because we are telling our children, “Sorry about the huge mess. Good luck with that.” That’s just not right at all.

I have the utmost faith in Gen Z. My sons and the young people they are friends with are engaged, informed, tolerant, realistic, and passionate. They know they have a lot facing them, but they have a sense they will be able to succeed where others have failed. What’s more is that they know they have no choice. They are going to have to be creative, to step up and solve problems because their future depends on it. I sense this group is up to the task. They have the tools. They just need for us old folks to get out of their way and let them lead.

As for my part, I am going to work on changing my focus. Yeah. The news is bad. But the news was bad during the plague too, and yet we humans got through it. We are adaptable. We dream, we invent, we persevere. Like the Energizer Bunny, we keep going. We need to open our minds to the possibilities and stop being so damn fatalistic. And if we adults can’t step up and do that, maybe we should shut up so we don’t poison the minds of those whose vision could change everything.

At The Corner of East 38th And Chicago Ave

Last week my son and I went to Minnesota for 36 hours to tour colleges, one in St. Paul and two in Northfield. We added on a quick stop at the Mall of America to hit up the biggest Lego store in the United States. And I forced Luke to eat gluten free with me, trying out a bakery for cinnamon donuts, as well as a popular restaurant that served gourmet arepas. Early Thursday evening as we were driving back from our last college tour in Northfield, we discussed what we should do with the remaining couple hours we had in Minneapolis. I suggested we visit the George Floyd Memorial. Luke agreed it was imperative.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. George Floyd’s murder woke me. While I had been sleepily aware of innumerable murders of black men and boys by white police officers, I had never considered my inaction a form of passive racism. Watching the footage of Officer Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, knowing that Floyd was pleading for his life and yet the officers refused to relent to save him, made me sick. This was not a knee-jerk murder committed out of an impulsive act of self-defense, to which I could give the law officer some benefit of the doubt in my white naïveté. This was intentional. It was obvious to me. It was obvious to many white people whose eyes hadn’t been opened before. It was impossible to unsee what we had seen. There was no going back. My complicity in racism existed through my sheer inability to comprehend I could have been doing something proactive to speak out against these injustices, yet I remained silent because it wasn’t my father, brother, or son being targeted. I hadn’t been paying enough attention. I had to face what I didn’t want to face. As an upper-middle-class white woman, I had always been in a position to speak out, to get involved, to do more. I just hadn’t. I was racist for believing these problems didn’t belong to me when they did.

Luke and I parked a couple blocks away from the intersection where the memorial had been erected and walked through the neighborhood. The houses were small and well kept. Many yards had Black Lives Matter signs or pictures of George Floyd. The closer we got to the memorial, the more evidence we saw of the strife the neighborhood has witnessed since May of 2020. A block off the memorial, sprayed on the street, are a list of asks, boxes that need to be checked in order for all black Americans to begin to feel heard and seen. We read them slowly, considering each name listed and feeling the weight of the problems facing minorities in this country today.

When we reached the Cup Foods store outside which Floyd had been forced to the ground and knelt on for far too long as he gasped for breath and called for his mother, I was overcome by emotion and stood in awe. So many people had contributed to the memorial. There were banners and poems, candles, artwork, and a plethora of stuffed animals now dirty and threadbare from sitting out in the elements for a year. This small neighborhood store, still operating, people wandering in and out around the cordoned off area directly in front of the store, is something bigger now. After taking in the thoughtful tokens left by mourners, I moved to the spray-painted mural of Floyd. I stood in front of him and studied his face and I cried. I thought about how ridiculous it is to be murdered over a disputed $20 bill. I thought about how that would never happen to a white man. I cried for George. I cried for young Darnella Frazier who had taken the video that changed my heart. I thought about how her life changed that day. I thought about how helpless she must have felt. I thought about how she will never see the world the same way again. I wept for innocence lost and eyes now opened. I wept for George’s eyes forever closed.

In the spot where Floyd took his last breath under Chauvin’s knee, an artist painted a blue image of a man, face down, hands bound behind his back. Wings arise not from his back, but from his neck. Underneath him are the final words he had air for in his collapsing lungs.

Standing in George Floyd Square will forever be same to me as standing at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Heartbreaking and nauseating. Surreal and yet completely real. There aren’t words enough to explain the emotions. And I don’t know the way right way forward to begin to change the vestiges of systemic racism, but I know change must happen. I know I have to be part of that change in whatever way I am able to contribute for the rest of my fortunate life.

I’m glad I took Luke to that intersection last Thursday. I’m grateful we shared tears and hugs and silent reverence. I’m grateful my son is alive and I acknowledge how gifted I have been not to have to worry about him when he goes out in the same way a mother of a black boy worries. Every white person in this country should visit the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. Go see if you can stand there and not feel your heart change. Go see if you can stand there and not understand what a privilege it is to be white and to know that no police officer will ever snuff your life out for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill with white Andrew Jackson on it, or maybe even someday soon black Harriet Tubman. Go take a minute to stand and feel the lightness of your whiteness. Go stand for minute with the heaviness of being black in America.