The house where my wife and I raised our children, the house my daughter now owns, is three blocks from the epicenter of the rioting and looting that took place in St. Paul last week, an area called Midway. On Thursday night, she called us on the hour to let us know she was fine. Scared, but all right. There were gunshots nearby, strangers roaming the streets, the smell of smoke in the air.
The images on the news were grim and remain grim, but there’s another side to what is occurring. On Saturday, I biked to the affected area. The neighborhood was already at work with brooms and trash bags and shovels, cleaning up the damage, the debris. These were African-American neighbors, Hmong neighbors, Vietnamese neighbors, Latinx neighbors, Native American neighbors, white neighbors. Local artists had begun to use the plywood that covered broken windows to express their thoughts and feelings. This is their community and they are all involved in the work of healing.
I’m not going to talk about the underlying reasons for the chaos. They’re complex and rooted so deeply in how we think and how we act toward one another that it would take pages, and I’m far from the best person to try to explain. But I will tell you something that a Native elder once told me and that I’ve repeated in my Cork O’Connor novels several times. There are two wolves always fighting in the human heart. One is love and one is fear. When I asked the elder which wolf wins the battle, his answer was this: The one you feed. Always the one you feed.