You’re not alone
I’m with you
I’m lonely too
Those are the opening lyrics Jeff Tweedy wrote in the 2010 song “You Are Not Alone” for Mavis Staples. I’ve had this song on repeat many times over the last six months.
It’s a piece I’ve got history with. It was on the mix CD my husband made for me when I was pregnant. I’ve sent it to grieving friends. I posted it for my students last spring when we had to pivot to remote learning.
I shared it with my closest friends here in Bluffton this summer and told them how much I miss them — though they all live within walking distance.
I listen to it in my office on days I need a little hope sprinkled on the melancholy that’s dominated life since COVID-19 struck.
And now, I’m sharing it with you.
One of the most transformative things I’ve learned is that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there’s almost always another feeling underneath it.
I’ve been feeling plenty angry lately — ragey, even. All for good reason. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. 215,000-plus COVID deaths. Proud Boys on standby.
Fear is what lies beneath my anger.
The principalities and powers persist, and so should we.
A broken home
A broken heart
Isolated and afraid
We’ve all experienced brokenness, isolation and fear these last few months. My mom died just days before Christmas last year. I haven’t seen my father since the first week of January.
I broke down in tears last April when I told my book club I didn’t know how I would make it through the next five months before my son would allegedly return to school. I’ve borne witness to his heart being broken by lost friendships and a new normal.
I’ve listened as students have shared stories of homelessness, family addiction and the struggle to break the cycle of generational poverty.
Fear. it’s such a simple, primal thing, and yet its implications on our lives are so complex. It can be useful. It’s an evolutionary survival mechanism given to us by our Creator. Fear can help us know when something is wrong. If you’re afraid, there is no shame in it. You’re not alone. Much is wrong in our world.
Open up this is a raid
I want to get it through to you
You’re not alone
In our modern-day empire, we have learned to deny and hide our fears. We are fed the myth that to name our fear is to let it control us.
As Anabaptists, many of us struggle to name our anger. Some of us mistakenly ignore anger to maintain “peace,” when in reality it only fosters a systemic culture of passive-aggressive conflict avoidance.
We have learned to keep hidden what would reveal our most vulnerable selves because we fear a loss of power and privilege.
When we act in this space of preserving our power and privilege — consciously or not — we are accomplices to the principalities and powers that exacerbate and perpetuate the very things that ail us from without and within.
As for that ‘r’ word — raid. Raids are scary, violent, fear-inducing. They leave things in shambles, often unrecognizable.
I feel like 2020 has been a raid on life as we knew it. I’ve had to fight the urge to barricade myself and my feelings away, to isolate or distract myself with anything other than the truth about what I’m feeling.
The good news is that none of us is alone. As a people of faith, we can trust God’s Spirit to move within and among us, to help us listen to that fear and channel our anger in the pursuit of justice.
I’ve not given up hope, but in order to hold onto it, I need to be reminded that I’m not alone. Neither are you.
Marathana Prothro is assistant professor of communication at Bluffton University in Ohio and a member of the Anabaptist World Inc. board of directors.
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