…beyond the specific theme of murder, and the ugliness and evils of racism, the universal pandemic of Covid 19 has been a virus that attacks our breathing. We are all…to a greater or lesser extent…walking around fearing that “I can’t breathe” could become our own experience. And for black and Asian communities these themes of racism and the virus of course intersect…we know that “I can’t breathe” resonates in increasingly larger concentric circles in societies worldwide…“I can’t breathe” is the deep underlying unspoken cry of the heart wherever oppression and victimization and inequality are present.
Unspoken until it is spoken. Unspoken until people watch one man, in Minneapolis, having the breath of life choked out of him…in his dying breath (he) speaks the words that ignite recognition in so many others that in his last words he is, unbeknownst to himself, speaking for so many, in so many other situations. He speaks to humanity, he speaks for humanity….breathing is a blessing, it is a gift, it doesn’t belong to us: it passes through us, this breath of life, it makes us humble, it’s what we use to acknowledge our dependence. We can use our breath to bless or to curse, to create or to destroy, to inspire or to deaden.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines from an address by Rabbi Howard Cooper.