Baltimore, An Opportunity for Healing
I have just travelled by train back and forth from New York to Washington D.C., passing through the Baltimore train station in each direction. Both times as I listened to the passenger doors opening and closing again, I looked out my window for the signs of social distress I knew was underway. I couldn’t see anything from my vantage point, but that did not mean it wasn’t there.
With physical disease the symptoms that finally appear in the body as the telltale signs of illness create a reflexive and surprising gasp at the undeniable revelation that something is wrong. Yet something has been wrong for some time, growing more unharmonious until finally there is an eruption that can no longer be ignored. That moment is a forceful call to attend to the symptom itself and more importantly the underlying root of disease.
The grief that is piercing Baltimore is a call to everyone in the country to face the deep and endemic social illness of racism, economic stratification and inequity that creates painful fractures impacting all of humanity. That the eruption cannot be seen or felt directly from any one particular vantage point does not mean the illness isn’t there or that it’s cure isn’t everybody’s responsibility.
One of the confounding but blessed things about illness is that it lives side by side with nature’s greater instinct for healing—the innate human drive to be well. While the TV cameras are focused on the sensational dimensions of conflict between the community and law enforcement, there are simultaneously many healing actions taking place in Baltimore and elsewhere. There are uplifting and powerful peaceful protests, reconciliations between enemy gang members, healing art being made, and bridges being built between those who have been alienated from one another.
Healing does not happen in a straight line. It zigs and zags. Importantly, it is a natural and crucial force that we can all tap to hasten our efforts to bend the long arc toward justice. Whoever and wherever we are in this complex story, we can take an active role in healing the illnesses of separation by attending to what is happening in Baltimore.
Let’s gather ourselves and our loved ones close, like families do when an illness is known, and together summon new levels of insight, compassion, love, and fortitude for rooting out racism, injustice, and inequality wherever we find it.
Baltimore is an opportunity for healing everywhere.