Circling back to what matters

Dear President Biden,

Busy, tired, uninspired – I’m sure there’s more to it, but that trio of words sound good together and do a decent job of summing up why it’s been almost a week since I’ve written to you. Busy, tired, uninspired, and well, the overwhelm associated with living in this weird situation where the world is literally on fire but we’re all expected to act like everything’s normal.

To unpack the latter a bit more, the overwhelm I’m talking about is the increasingly surreal dual track that’s becoming the new normal. Basically, it’s that my head (and heart) is oftentimes occupied with worry over global warming, the demise of democracy, systemic racism and sexism, income inequality, and my own complicity and ignorance around all of these things, while at the same time I’m choosing to click along in the proscribed comfort zone of my routines. It’s like there’s a staticky, rather-too-loud mix-tape playing in the background all of the time that I can’t entirely tune out.

And hmm – this surreal conflicted dual track new normal deal is probably the perfect recipe for “busy, tired, uninspired…” If I stay busy enough with STUFF then I won’t have the headspace to think too, too hard and long about what I’m doing – and more importantly, what I’m not doing – about the myriad ills confronting us all. I’m not much of a drinker and I’m too picky and too antsy to watch much TV so being a busy bee at work is my go-to avoidance strategy even though it leaves me feeling tired and uninspired much of the time. Yes, it’s what I’m paid to do and it’s what I’m trained to do (in many more ways than one), and I do get to feel as though I am benefitting humanity….

But it’s not actually doing anything concrete about the shit that’s threatening to take us all down.

I know that what follows is going to seem like it’s out of left field, but bear with me for a sec….

Several weeks ago I discovered that the city of Seattle stopped updating their officer involved shooting database over two years ago. This got me wondering about other large US cities and their officer involved shooting database upkeep so since then I’ve had a bunch of open tabs in my (home) browser that point to how badly we are collectively doing monitoring police shootings (let alone other types of police aggression/violence). There are a few exceptions among the 36 (or really 31 if you don’t count all 6 of the overlapping datasets from the LA County Sheriff’s Department) entries in the national Police Data Initiative website, but for the most part the tracking is abysmal. As in horrible, unconscionable, worse than useless. And it’s beyond not ok that there are only 31 municipalities in the database to start with.

When I discovered how badly flawed our collective data are my thought was that an Op Ed about this fundamental data failure is needed, as in “if we aren’t tracking it – if we won’t see it — there’s zero chance we’re going to do jack about it…” But have I stepped up and drafted anything? No, I haven’t. It’s gotten to the point where it feels like the open tabs are mocking me, or at least haunting me.

I had no idea when I started this letter that I’d end up circling back to my lack of action on this issue, but I’m seeing now that I owe it to myself and much more importantly to the hundreds and hundreds of people who are killed every year by police to at least make an actual attempt at writing the Op Ed (and to get it published). It’s awful stuff that isn’t going to go away just because we fail to track it – White people may be able to pretend that “everything’s fine, it’s time to move on” but it’s seriously not.

Basically, this is a “if you see something, say something” situation even if that something is nothing.

May we all be safe.
May we all be willing to monitor what needs to be monitored.
May we all be strong enough to push past our routine comfort zones for the greater good.
May we accept that complacency kills our spirits.

Tracy Simpson

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