More than Baltimore

The death of Freddie Gray sparks fear quickly followed by fury and grief.
The death of Freddie Gray sparks fear quickly followed by fury and grief.

I remember being confounded by the Watts riots in 1965. Why would people wreak havoc on their own lives and those of their friends and neighbors. I understood the fury but not the response.

Through more years of rage and riots around the world, I grew grew in understanding. My own rage simmered at injustice and inequity.

Because of Rigoberta Menchu, I truly comprehend what happened in Baltimore this past week in response to Mr. Gray’s death.

Two weeks ago my granddaughter invited me to Eugene, Oregon to hear the Nobel Peace Laureate give a talk to the public. She was the keynote speaker for Peace Jam at the University of Oregon. Due to my limited Spanish and the distraction of a translator, I didn’t hear everything, but one thing that has stayed with me was her statement that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are essentially promoting violence.

For years I have heard the concept…take care of yourself first. This time it resonated and I have chewed on it and repeated it to others in the ensuing weeks. Immediately after I heard Rigoberta Menchu, my daughter, her partner, and I discussed the far-reaching effects as they are exhibited in situations where inequality, finances, health issues, etc. preclude entire groups of people from taking care of their own and their family’s needs.

I have thought of the resentment and anger that arises when I continually put others’ needs ahead of my own. I know my responses to intense fear. I’ve seen mini-examples played out: last week I was talking about the concept with my grandchildren as we waited in line for a table at brunch, One grandson was hungry getting snarly – taking his discomfort out on himself and the rest of us. “I get it!”, he said, when he had been served and was thinking clearly.

Baltimore is a glaring example.

When a huge segment of our population is seen as “other” and lives in fear for the lives of their children…when there seems to be no way to be heard…when there isn’t room at the table for discussion of solutions that are widespread and meaningful…violence erupts.

I get it. I grieve.




  1. Well diagnosed Mother and so true. We have many such underprivileged groups in India, not just one like you have and every now and then violence flares up and considerable damage to self, and property as well as loss to lives take place. Strange as it may seem, in two days time, everything is back to normal, and life moves on as though nothing happens but the anger simmers just below the surface waiting for another incident to trigger it off. We humans must be culled off the face of the earth.


    • Well, if not culled, perhaps a bit more enlightened? I wish we had only one group here that considers itself (and we consider) “other”. I think this is rampant and tragic in its divisiveness. I can only hope to change my own attitudes, and those are sometimes deeply embedded and hard to shift.


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