King T’Challa, Compromise, and Empathy

We cannot devolve to wish or celebrate the death of those we disagree with. Change is an achievable outcome.

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Two years ago, I confessed that it was easier for me to cultivate gratitude out of tragedy than everyday life. Tragedies highlight the fragility of life and it’s ultimate outcome: death. When gratitude is the result of a tragedy, gratitude becomes a reaction, not a default. For without tragedy, one may forget gratitude.

In the mourning of Chadwick Boseman, who played King T’Challa, King and Protector of Wakanda, in the film Black Panther, we learned of his battle with Colon Cancer. It became known that over the past 4 years, in private he had been battling a disease that graduated from Stage III to Stage IV, giving truth to that we never know what someone is battling. Adjacent to tributes were apologetic strangers regretting the cruel comments made of his appearance during this battle as if to justify themselves announcing “I would have never said that had I known he was ill.”

In between timeline scrolls, I asked why do we need to be reminded that we never know what someone is battling?

In illness or good health, there isn’t ever a time when rude comments are appropriate or necessary.

And the shitty thing about using tragedy to remind ourselves of this is that we aren’t reminded for too long. We soon stray.

Surely, this weekend and into next week tributes will keep this sentiment fresh in our minds, but for how long. When is the next time we will forget what someone is going through?

In the case where this reminder becomes a default one will soon realize that being kind, considerate, and thoughtful to ourselves and others, doesn’t compromise anything to us.

In a recent interview, Marc-Lamont Hill asked, what are you compromising?

He was responding to the show’s host who said she would call a Trans person by their preferred name, but wouldn’t use their pronouns, so he asked “What would doing so compromise to you?”

Since hearing his response, I’ve been evaluating myself. Is there anything I oppose, that if I were to support wouldn’t compromise anything?

For most, this answer manifests as petty judgments of others' tastes in fashion, photo, music, or another preference. Items of less significance, but in exercise allow yourself to be wrong.

Allow yourself to be so honest that you surface what you might be opposing that if you were to support, or even release your opposition of, would compromise nothing to you.

What may make this easier is asking, if someone’s life was able to be empowered at no cost, no harm, and no compromise, why wouldn’t I support it?

That brings me to empathy.

Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I find a distinction between these two words. Compassion is extending sympathy, it’s thoughts and prayers, it’s I hope you’re well messages, it’s concern. It’s at an arm’s length distance away.

Empathy is intimate. The word sharing, means you are able to understand how they feel. Not to internalize their emotions and suffering, but to understand their pain.

Compassion is forgotten, empathy is felt.

When you can stand in someone else’s shoes, you understand them.

Clarke Peters wrote that his life was enriched knowing Chadwick Boseman. In reading that, it was the first time I felt I had an aspiration as to what I want to be remembered as.

Is enriching lives just by being related to them not an ultimate compliment?

That was supposed to be the final line of this piece.

But, this morning I woke up to a message that a friend and former teammate of mine passed away during the night.

Death has found me several times in the past months, it’s found our nation and our world. Death is constantly showing up uninvited into our lives.

But, what makes a death more significant than another to include it in this letter?

Decency.

At age 16, this person was my home away from home as we moved to a new state to live in stranger's homes in pursuit of childhood dreams: professional hockey.

In the 13 years since, we’ve grown distant and this summer reconnected, sinking into honest and difficult conversations.

We disagreed on politics, protests, and many other issues. Conversations were painful. I was conflicted.

And this morning, just sad. Sure, this person holds political views that are in direct contrast to me, but what’s more important today is that a wife is without her husband, a daughter without her father, a set of parents without their son, and an illuminating conversation never to be completed.

In June I saw a thread about a man who denied Covid-19’s threat and attended pool parties, commenting that the virus was a liberal hoax, only to then contract Covid-19 and pass away. On this thread were people celebrating his passing, as if to say “Ha, got ya!”

When Herman Cain passed away from Covid-19, weeks after appearing maskless at a rally the same comments found their way to the public.

Last week we saw death in the streets of Kenosha and Portland be celebrated online and wished upon others.

Decency. Morals. Respect.

These comments and sentiments are without.

We cannot devolve to wish or celebrate the death of those we disagree with. Change is an achievable outcome.

When a person passes so does the dialogue. Without dialogue, we can not achieve change.

The difference between Seth Godin, The Morning Brew, and me? I respect your inbox, curating only one newsletter per month — Join my behind-the-words monthly newsletter to feel what it’s like to receive a respectful newsletter.

Rode a bike across America, wrote about it. Went sober, wrote about it. Built RICKiRICKi, wrote about it. Is a human, writing about it | Cr3ate @ RICKiRICKi.com

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