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by Donna Brooks

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COVID-19: Feeling Regulated and Finding Action in Despair

I have been thinking a lot about how our country and many of our lives feel so discordant or just strangely different. The covid lock down was so sudden and unexpected. We lost the steadiness of predictability and access to many of the usual ways we stay relaxed. That is certainly what some of this intensity about reopening is; people trying to re-regulate their nervous systems after the shock and restriction of sudden change. Your body wants to just get back to normal.

And normal doesn’t have to be good – just predictable. To borrow a quote from Brene Brown: “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all humanity and nature.” At the end of the day we all need to feel we belong. We need to feel our families and communities care for us. We need to make our world whole.

The public execution of George Floyd has horrified most people. But, being Black in America means never being cared for in the wider community. Listen to what Trevor Noah says about the social contract of America and being Black.” And as liberal and progressive white people we can really miss our white privilege. I know I can miss mine. I often want to do something but don’t really know what to do. So I read and weigh thoughts. I try to question my privilege.

Take an argument I am hearing lately that says, “just take care of your immune system- you won’t get covid’. Maybe that’s true. I won’t comment on that. But there is an assumption you have control over your immune system Well, your immune system can’t function properly if your nervous system is constantly primed to respond to threat. It’s hard to feel regulated when you feel distrusted, hated or feared for just being you. Or if any police interaction could lead to death. Sure, we can all develop internal resilience. That is the core of my work. But outer circumstances are important in that they create positive change too.

How do we end this horrible police brutality towards Black people but extending to all people who want to protest peacefully? One argument is to slash police department budgets. I think this because of the heavy militarization we are seeing in our major cities. Even in my pleasant valley, I have heard stories of police using tactical gear to make minor drug arrests and police departments having so much grant money they feel compelled to buy military weapons. Maybe more communities would look like this -police marching WITH protesters. And, how many of our officers are struggling with PTSD that its triggered under stress? Let’s use police funds to build the very resilience that creates positive predicability and a sense of belonging for us all.