My Plum and I love to play with bubbles, we make huge ones that float around us, giant rainbow colored orbs that shine with drippy soap as they are carried away on the breeze. Plum chases them, delights in bursting them with his stick or sword or ninja kick. Maybe he is on to something that I have forgotten: bubbles are beautiful but must be broken. I always secretly root for them to escape his reach, bypass the branches, I want them to pass freely into the sky. Sometimes bubbles enclose us, surround us in bands of bright colors reflecting the light, hiding the darkness all around.
The Sunday night book group at church is breaking my heart. I knew going into it that I would be vulnerable, that my heart would be on the line. The seriousness of the topic, how closely it fit my own reality, I knew it was dangerous. Still, I felt called, pushed, to sign my name on the clipboard, I felt prodded to buy the book and say I would join. “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander is risky stuff, threatening our happy bubbles, perilous to our long-held beliefs. For those of us well acquainted with the criminal justice system, it is even more painful.
I finished grad school about 25 years ago, I haven’t read serious works since, not full books on social justice by intelligent authors. I read snippets, I follow news. I live life and experience events but have not stayed up on scholarly readings. This is my confessional, where I come clean about my own intelligent ignorance. Much like when my son showed signs of substance abuse but I knew that I had already covered all of those bases, I was too smart to let that happen in my own family, I missed what was in front of me. My knowledge was not sufficient to understand the greater issue, my response was not great enough to halt the problem. My bubble kept me from seeing what was really happening to/with my son, until it all burst, our life snagged on the jagged edges of addiction, destroyed by the criminal justice system once again.
Getting comfortable in our own bubbles is dangerous, as the current national situation can attest. The seriousness of the racial divide is irrefutable, once the bubble of denial is popped, the soul cleansing can begin. I don’t want to know what I am reading, I don’t want to be aware that politicians I have loved are complicit in this current divide. How much soap will it take to clean us all? Will we ever be washed free of this ugliness? I don’t have the answers to fix such a horrific systemic problem but I know the first step is breaking those bubbles, those beautiful alluring floating orbs that can calm my mind and distract me from what is true and what is real. Indeed, blisters are bubbles as well, patches of skin rubbed until the skin reacts angrily. A burn that shows the damage has occurred, attention is required. Bubbles, blisters, mass incarceration, racial caste. My soul is aching and my memories are fresh. The first step in healing.