On the one hand, we have something that is referred to as "compassion fatigue". At its essence, this concerns
emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring. It is sometimes referred to as secondary traumatic stress (STS). According to the Professional Quality of Life Scale, burnout and secondary traumatic stress are two interwoven elements of compassion fatigue.
In some work this is found when the problem is too large and the answers too difficult. If one cannot figure out what to do, the mind and body simply shuts down and it/they move on to another topic.
On the other hand, we have the possibility of trying to institute real change regarding police violence, racial inequality and bringing forward a true/robust democracy. Clearly these issues are not easy to begin nor to sustain but there has been a deep as well as wide movement of people as well as a variety of institutions brought forward to deal with the issues at hand.
While we think about what should be done with the current window of opportunity that we have, I think it is worthwhile to reflect on what probably should not be redone. In particular, I am reminded of the Presidential Initiative on Race put forward under Clinton. In many respects, the initiative seemed to be excellent - there was a wide number of knowledgeable people connected with it and they had the idea of reaching out into the communities of America to hear and compile the stories about race/racism. Unfortunately, the effort was not prepared for the groundswell of experience and emotion that was unearthed. I attended the event in Denver but I also read the transcripts from several other cities (I cannot seem to find them now and I think that is unfortunate). Listening, things proceeded more or less reasonably at each event until the panelists opened the mic. This is kind of when everything went sour. The initiative never allocated enough time for this component of the event and people appeared to get frustrated by the lack of time and seemingly the lack of interest in hearing what they had to say. There was no depository for those that could not make the event or for cities that were not visited. There was an opportunity but it was not used properly.
We cannot proceed in this manner again. We need to be prepared to hear as well as to listen. We need to provide a million ways for people to provide what they have to offer and then we need to spend the time going through this material to figure out what was experienced, perceived and lived or survived. Only then will we know what has transpired here in the United States. Only then can we begin to heal and move toward a more positive peace.
And thus we soon will have to choose: compassion fatigue or fundamental change.