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A Lifelong Project July 22nd, 2020

Maeve Higgins is a brilliant, self-effacing humorist who often appears on the panel of funny men and women who entertain you with their wisecracks on NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’, my favorite news quiz show for many years now.

I had not realized that she is also a thoughtful and sensitive commentator, which became clear to me as I read a recent op-ed piece she wrote in the New York Times, addressing how we should deal with our own racism, past, present and future. The change, she says, must begin within us, and it must persist. As a person of color, I found her thoughts refreshingly valuable.

Here are a few excerpts from the op-ed:

“When you’re white, understanding racism and anti-blackness is not a root canal, it’s not a one-time-only, pay-your-money, drill-the-rot-out-and-get-through-it type of experience. This is a lifelong project we get to approach with grace and curiosity and the full understanding that it will be difficult at times and beautiful at times and any chance we have to take part in it is frankly rather stunning.

“You’re simply one drop in a new wave, a wave that slips easily into an ocean of people, deep and permanent, who have long been eroding the cliffs of white supremacy.

“When you jump from the brittle scaffold built by violence and go tumbling into the tide, you’ll see that it’s easy.

“This lie that can only hold fast by isolating us from one another and having us do ugly things to keep that separation up, it divides us from what we are, just a bunch of molecules in a variety of formations that will dissolve and rebuild in the blink of time’s eye. Laugh at that lie as you squint out to the horizon and see the truth, then jump into the ocean that will inevitably get you there, and you will love it, I promise.”

Maeve’s thoughts inspired me to put them into verse, as almost everything does. Here is the short poem I wrote based on her words. I hope you like it:

All Together Now

It will be difficult, I know for sure
But it will be beautiful, you’ll see
Come and play your part in it
You’ll see how fruitful it can be

Become a ripple in the wave
Become a drop in the ocean
The rot is permanent and deep
Together let’s stop the erosion

Jump down from the scaffold
Jump into the tumbling tide
Join the swaying masses
Come with us, enjoy the ride

They’ll try to isolate us
Make us do ugly things
Keep us divided from each other
Manipulate us, pull our strings

We are but just molecules
We’ll dissolve in the blink of an eye
But we’ll also rebuild again
Before another instant goes by

Squint out to the distant horizon
See the truth, laugh at the lie
Come with us, we’ll get there
All together now, we will live or die