June 28th, 2020

I have, once again felt the need to explain what I have written and give it an introduction.  This is for the piece published last week titled “Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Myself” and gives more of an insight into my emotional state.  This was originally written as the opening of an evening of learning and discussion with Kibbutz Mishol.

A wave of protests swept across America immediately following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th.  Video of his death, filmed by onlookers, showed police officers pinning him to the ground until he lost consciousness.  One officer is seen looking very casual as he presses his knee into George’s neck.  Pleas for mercy from George were ignored by the officers.  Rallies against police use of force began the next day and spread to over 400 cities across all 50 states and have spread to over 60 countries around the world.  

I watched this from the screen of my laptop, as it grew from anger over a specific incident, to protests of police use of force generally, to a protest for drastic changes to the way America uses policing.  I felt the anger and frustration of the protesters and wanted to be there with them.  When clashes between protesters and police became violent, I felt helpless and angry, sad and determined.

I want to scream and yell and gnash my teeth at the world.  How can we, in the futuristic year of 2020 still be grappling with what feels like 19th century issues?

But here I am, having chosen to live in Kibbutz Mishol in Nof HaGalil.  In some ways so far away from everything, detached from reality.  A feeling heightened by the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving two hours to Tel Aviv to stand in Rabin Square feels tokenistic.  Blocking traffic on some random street in Nof HaGalil feels like a nuisance more than a protest.  Protesting America and its police for continuing to fail on these issues feels like it misses the point and ignores the realities here in Israel.

So, again, I am back to wanting to scream and yell and gnash my teeth at the world.  How can we condemn America’s follies when Israeli society is riddled with its own prejudices.

In early June, I made signs.  Protest signs with slogans like “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop – Listen” and lists of names of people killed or abused by police and it felt cathartic.  It felt expressive.  I added signs with lyrics from Bob Marley and quotes from Martin Luthor King Jr.

I got a temporary release from the artistic expression of creating the signs, but that still didn’t fill the missing piece in me.

On June 16th, I took my signs and set them up next to city hall here in Nof HaGalil.  It felt good to be outside. Exposing the signs and slogans to the public, even if no one cared or even took notice meant that they were real and that I had crossed a line that I could never go back on: that these slogans were now part of my public persona.

I need to share this with you, partly because I want you to understand what is happening in the US, partly because I want you to understand that I see it here as well, and partly because I want you to understand the inner turmoil I am experiencing.

If I’m going to share this, it needs some sort of jumping off point for the conversation.  The signs work great and I could share videos, but those feel like parts of the picture.  After not finding any articles or essays that expressed what I am feeling, I understood that to truly share what I am feeling I need to write it down.

I wrote what follows in the wake of Juneteenth.  It was born of a conversation with my parents and a paragraph from near the end of an essay that I connected with.  It is, like the signs, a work of expressive art.  No more, no less.

I still want to scream and yell and gnash my teeth at the world.  And I fear that there is little that I can do to completely cleanse myself of that until injustice has been removed from the world.

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