I’m really, really getting sick of the whataboutism happening re: Notre Dame. People can be aware of and mourn multiple things.
— Hannah Niece (@HannSolo_) April 16, 2019
So many of my good, insightful friends and family are damning the mourning of the Notre Dame fire.
They make true points that we have preeminent and urgent tragedies, both in our past and occurring every day, that we ignore, pass off, or defend. Because I have brilliant friends, these issues range from the looming problem of the very survival of our Earth, to the ignoring of and the wiping away of the culture and structure of brown-skinned people; the abject destruction of wildlife and waters, to the misogynistic colonization and abusive history of the man-made church as a societal structure. It is being said that we have no right to mourn the burning of the big church, when others go without media tears.
The thing is, we can hold several thoughts at the same time. We can mourn all loss.
Immediate, sudden disasters seem to loom and always turn our heads: this is the way of urgency, how our eyes see and our minds understand. If everyone of us had plastic floating at our beaches (like we know it is in places we don’t see every day), if each of us had to ration our gas, pay a carbon footprint tax, were forced to wear particle masks due to poor air quality, perhaps then we’d see the impact of how we are killing this planet. Meanwhile, we allow the workaday world to swallow us up. We allow our poverty, or our wealth, to gain our attentions.
When a huge and ancient structure is in high flames for two days, it gets our attention. It should—it is indicative of how things disappear. We cannot replace everything in our “throw away” society. Some things, once destroyed, are gone.
Our Mother Earth, above all, could soon be gone unless we see, unless we act, unless we change. We blow up structures of our Earth siblings, their homes and habitat; we hunt and kill and trap beaver families because we think we have preeminence; we pour gasoline on innocent dogs and set them on fire because youth are bored and angry and hopeless; we torture women and children because our rage can’t be quenched. We spread giant black veins of poison across sacred lands and infect and destroy life because we think our opposable thumbs and logical brains give us power and right and might.
We like our cars and easy dirty fuels. We like our easy plastics and easy ways. We allow many things to blind us, but damning Notre Dame will bring back no beaver dams.
Despising one mourning over another does us little good. Allow the mourning—allow us all to see the losses, to wrestle with these perspectives in comparison to history and life, value and measure. We can cry over lost art and history at the same time we fight for the air, the pulse, and the blood of this planet. In fact, one glaring loss after another may help wake some who were sleeping.
“What do we value?”
For me, it’s not one over the other—it is all. My mother moon and father sun, my womb earth and blood water, my brother and sister animals. The art that creative hands before me have made, whether under tyranny or free, whether brown or blue-eyed, male or female—I mourn it all. Some things I can fight; those make me act. Some things I can only watch and cry for.
Notre Dame was a museum of history. We mustn’t ignore any history. There are no “foreign” embassies, no “foreign” tragedies, no “black” churches, no “migrant” children to me: we are all children, we are all creatures who suffer and agonize, are vulnerable to disaster, war, hate, and destruction. Please indulge my inadequate words, but this isn’t a contest of mourning—all things can be mourned, and can be mourned at the same time.
That we cry in the moment for a structure that has held so much human toil and creative power does not negate that we ultimately revere the earth who sustains our life. That my eye is green does not negate the indigenous heart of my grandmother, who weeps within my soul. It makes the tears that wet my pale cheeks no less valuable than any other tears.
No, we can lie down and cry over every loss, whether human breathed or brought on by God. The real controversy is whether we will stand for continued destruction, whether we will turn our heads to continued torture and oppression.
Please don’t abhor or condemn those who mourn. This will teach nothing, but will inspire more hate, division, and disregard. Allow all mourning. Allow all mourning to be a call to better, an alarm for sight and awareness. Let us comfort each other in our losses, so we can embrace each other’s pain and sorrow, not become more calloused, less understanding, and more divisive.
It’s only together that we’re going to save this world, this life on Earth. Divided we fall, again and again and again and again. We can learn these lessons today and we can change the world today, in this small moment.