Healing from a broken heart

Joshua Rosenberg


You’re likely reading, seeing, or experiencing what is on the news, and feeling heartbroken.

I have only a little to add, but I do have something to.

Getting better is hard; healing from a serious injury is hard. One way to think about, America and the Constitution (the and Bill of Rights) is as a promise, or a dream. From the start, that promise was compromised. Enslaved men and women built America, and Americans killed the men and women who lived on the land on which the nation started.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers had recent and historical precedent. It was done by men in plain sight who are responsible for the cruel thing they did. The murder of George Floyd was also the result of racist practices—those many of us are complicit in—and racist policies. The murder of George Floyd was also the result of not healing from breaking the promise of America, the thing, and the Constitution on which we were founded.

It’s evident that what we’ve not done is wrestle with the past in the way we have needed to - like how Germans have with being responsible for the Holocaust. It’s evident driving around Michigan and it’s evident driving around Tennessee and North Carolina that we are not clear about what our country’s racist, evil, destructive past meant and still means.

As one example, in Tennessee, a state park is named for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Nathan Bedford Forrest day is—still—a day of observation in Tennessee.

This is better known, but Confederate flags are commonplace, especially when you travel out of Metropolitan areas; the Confederacy seceded because of slavery; read the articles of secession for GA, MI, SC, TX, and VA here. Those wearing or waving the flag of the Confederacy either do not wish to know or do not wish to know what message doing so communicates. Driving to Obed Wild and Scenic River on Saturday, we drove past a women mowing her lawn with a Confederate flag tattoo. We drove past a house with American, Confederate, and Trump flags, all equal heights.

This isn’t newsworthy. It’s ubiquitous anywhere off the beaten path in, at least, Michigan, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Try driving from Asheville to Winston-Salem without driving past the largest flag you will likely seen. It’s a Confederate flag flying over I-40, which spans from North Carolina to California. These symbols are everywhere (in fact, on- as well as off-the-beaten-path). What do they signify? What do they mean in terms of the fact that we express them?

I travel past the Daughters of the Confederacy memorial hall to make it to campus in progressive Knoxville, where we live. There is a Confederate status in the main student residential area.

These are all true (to the best of my knowledge). I notice them, but there is a great deal that I don’t notice, know about, or place myself in opportunities to know.

There are many reasons for George Floyd’s murder; the actions of the police officers, racist policies and practices, and a hypocritical history that we are still grappling with.

Our past and how Black men and women are treated in the present can be attempted to be ignored, but doing so means that we’re not really living in the country we say and think we are. This means that our promise and dream are not being realized. This also means that we need to be uncomfortable; to make changes to how we are thinking, feeling, and acting. Getting better is hard; healing is hard, but healing the broken heart of our country is needed, and doing so asks all of us to work to do so, starting with myself. This is who are are, and that also points to a way to heal.