I thought that Ayesha Curry, the multidimensional and multitalented entrepreneur, and wife of professional basketball player Stephen Curry; recently performed a great public service. And of course she was immediately linguistically beat up by social media.
On a talk show hosted by Jada Smith (Red Table Talk: https://www.facebook.com/redtabletalk/videos/621830118291335/), Ms. Curry bravely admitted to some very human fears and vulnerabilities. I felt her honest self-assessment, coming from a person many probably presume to “have it all”, at least all that many think that we want; opened the door for all of us, not just women, to examine the status of our own emotional profiles. How do we really feel about ourselves as opposed to what other people think about (and what we lead them to think) about our ‘selves’?
Most of us are to some extent ‘made-up’ and ‘costumed’ characters in a self-written play we hope the world will sit and applaud without question. And so, we instinctively feel uncomfortable at the slightest expression of Ms. Curry’s type of authenticity that breaks the rules of the ‘pretend’ game. Imagine that, surprise, we ain’t all that people, and we, think that we are! And maybe we are even a little (or a lot) afraid that the ‘public’ will see through our daily PR presentations and see us in our fully emotionally naked and somewhat flawed human state.
Time has taught me that many ‘situations’ and relationships I wished I had, were, once the curtains were completely pulled back, in fact pure hellacious existences. Things (and people) are never as good as they appear to be. And the kicker is when someone whose life you ‘coveted’ (yes, I meant covet in the biblical sense); one day confesses to you that it is your life that they dreamed of living! Suffering and despair is often ‘hiding’ in plain sight; and most of us feel that it is not our business (concern?) to go behind and beyond the mask we are presented.
And what about this idea (male driven?) that it’s okay to calmly and openly talk about a broken arm, and not a broken heart; living-well lifestyles and not loneliness; all of this driven by a culture of: ‘appearances is everything’. And even the most animated practitioners of religion, who show so much interest in saving a person’s ‘soul’, seem to show so little concern and compassion for that person’s earthly personal sorrows. I am personally tired of a theology of: “look at your neighbor and tell them God is going to bless me with a car”; and not, “look at your neighbor and think about what they are going through!”
Recently, like many Americans I was shocked to read about the NYC man who allegedly murdered his 3 year old child in a burning car that he purposely rendered the doors difficult to open by responding police and fire-personnel*. My thinking was that he was seeking to inflict the greatest amount of pain and suffering he could imagine on his child’s mother; with whom he was having some type of ‘relationship/custody dispute’. But what was going on before this horrific event? Did anyone around him see any ‘danger signs’? And did the man himself express his sense of ‘losing it’ over this relationship/custody/conflict issue? We need to make the world a safe place where those who are hurting emotionally can tell the people around them how they truly feel; and those around them can hear and respond quickly without judgement. These true caring friends can then immediately get that person some psychotherapeutic counseling help and support.
How many of us have stood by and watched as people were crying out (openly and subtlety) for help; and then there is the tragic act; and then we talk about what we could or should have done.
Social media is not helping which is why I had to take a step back from it. I realized that too many people were using social media to ‘settle scores’, act mean, say ugly and dehumanizing things, under the protection of electronic distance. For many people, social media platforms functioned as a place to play out their emotional pain, in a bitter and verbally aggressive way. I went on social media first to keep up with the wonderful progress (and children) of my former students. I also saw it as a learning tool (including learning more about those things I disagreed with); I wanted to applaud achievements, encourage and lift people up. But I found the daily high level of negativity, disrespect and ugliness depressing.
Having a commander and chief whose crude utterances are driven by malevolence and the nullification of the ‘other’, surely does not help. And I think that even many citizens who oppose him politically; have subconsciously been infected with his aversion to human kindness approach to life. I truly feel that he has not created, but rather exposed the moral depravity, hidden in the hearts of many ‘decency-fronting’, dare I say Christian posturing, US citizens. I think that deep down and below the highly evolved parts of our brains that we love to show off as the ‘pride of our species’, are the ‘primitive’ unevolved parts, that really likes and admires the grunting brutal bully of the pack.
I am only one voice, and it is much too small to reach Ayesha Curry (or her many attackers). But if I could, I would tell her thank you for your kind act of service, and I apologize for some of us for not appreciating and treating you better. Hopefully, like a professional educator, the goodness and beauty of your contribution might for the most part initially go unnoticed; but then wonderfully show itself when the need arises in a near or distant future. Perhaps the many folks you’ll never meet, who thought that if they only had a (better) relationship, more or less of something, different jobs, a bigger house or more money, that their self-unrecognized, unaddressed suffering and hurt would end. And now, thanks to you their true healing journey can actually begin.
*A Burning Car With Doors Chained Shut, and a 3-Year-Old Victim, in Queens: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/nyregion/queens-car-fire-child-death.html
Michael A. Johnson has served as a teacher, principal, and a school district superintendent. He has written a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/