I was finishing off a news story on the radio. The news was about a young man armed with an assault rifle--had to be an AK-47-you have to hate them--who goes into an elementary school near Atlanta threatening staff and students. The receptionists at the school acted as a go-between, relaying demands between the young man and the police. This was the news report on National Public Radio. And I was listening to this development. The receptionist communicated with the young men and then relayed his demands to the police (all of this was taped). Throughout this process, the young man started to self-disclose to the receptionist. At one point he reported that he has not taken his medications and he feels suicidal. And this is when I parked in the car park at HomeDepot and sat listening.
The receptionist at the school, acting as the de facto mediator was obviously a Black woman by her accent and demeanor. Upon hearing this admission of weakness that he was suicidal, she tells the (obviously) White man “That's OK…We all feel like that. Look at me. When my husband left me I felt like killing myself. Now look at me.” Home Depot never looked so far away.
This was Antoinette Tuff. The humanity of that simple admission of great weakness. The young man “felt” that humanity. This was not a strategy, a protocol, a gambit. This was a “connection”. A love episode. That connection must have lessened his aloneness in the world and he surrendered to the police. I cried because the woman had the courage to see him as a human being. Not a fucked-up-White-privileged-man-with-a-fucking-gun-that-we-should-ban. Which was my position listening as a passive recipient of the news. It made me think about how we have lost that courage to see people as human beings rather than as consumers, liability, collateral, entitled, responsibilities, privileged, angry, fucked-up. If we see the humanity in people how much the world would change. And that is why I cried.
I cried for the courage that we have lost. As a culture, as a people, as individuals, we are diminished and when eruptions of such courage are shown by individuals, as Antoinette Tuff did, I feel the loss. This is how we should be but we have become so categorical. So judgmental and we alienate everyone from us. We separate ourselves to such an extent that we stop being human. We become elements in a machine. Antoinette Tuff-— perhaps because she has lost everything and reached into that existential loneliness—has shown what it takes to reclaim that unique attribute of humans. You have to lose everything to be human again.
© USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett