When I’ve watched such scenes in history films, I always assumed that these millions of people had no idea what Hitler was up to. Surely, I thought, they’ve been insulated against the truth of the Third Reich and its butchery. But this is not true. They witnessed their Jewish friends and neighbors being rounded up never to return. They watched newsreels at the movies featuring bomb raids and carnage. These were not stupid and ignorant people and to write them off as such is dangerous because it leaves us ignorant of how such mass indoctrination happens.
Hope flirts on the horizon, yet we have several more months of loss in-store––loss of lives, of livelihoods, homes, holiday gatherings, opportunities, of friendships, memories and security. Nothing has been left untouched by the wraith hands of the virus.
Fifty-six-million years later, in the same place we now call Wyoming, their descendants are working together in perfect harmony, human and horse, to move a herd of cattle off a northern slope into a grassy valley. As the horse gallops up a ridgeline, suddenly the topography changes, and the herd of cattle makes an abrupt shift. In response, the horse effortlessly executes what is known as a flying lead change—a gravity-defying maneuver that allows them to change balance and respond to the changing scenario without losing momentum or unseating their rider. Like this, horses have been our partner in successfully navigating change for thousands of years—the perfect power couple.
On one such afternoon, Scott and I, the Sayas and caretakers were sitting together on the portal looking out over the horse paddocks, Scott and I nibbling on an offered peach. A younger member of the group was speaking about the #MeToo movement. She was fuming about the various famous men appearing in the headlines for their sexual crimes, and other men she knew who were behaving badly, and proclaimed with much passion and righteous anger, “Yeah, it’s time we really call them out!!” I nodded in resolute solidarity.
Recently a friend asked me how I was doing. “I’m angry,” was my simple reply. At once they rushed in to comfort me with advice on how to deal with my anger as if anger were some kind of a parasite, disease, or unwanted house guest. I stopped them, “No…I’m really grateful for it. Anger is very useful for me.”
What would you do if you suddenly realized you were a racist? In the midst of the peaceful Black Lives Matter worldwide protests I took it upon myself to dive into as much antiracist material as I could get my hands on. My Kindle running hot, I read in a weekend White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and listened to Brené Brown’s recent interview with Ibram X. Kendi author of the New York Times bestseller How to Be an Antiracist. I read papers and articles. I had difficult conversations with loved ones.
If you’ve ever been to a circus or traveled somewhere exotic, you may have encountered elephants either doing tricks or taking tourists on rides through the forest. How are such enormous creatures trained? All around the world a tragic process is still being implemented by elephant handlers. They start by training the elephant when he is a baby and weighs only 200 pounds. At that stage, they shackle his legs to a twelve-foot length of chain and stake the chain into the ground.
One late evening in 1999, Daniel Schneider and his wife were awakened by two police officers knocking at their door. Their 22-year-old son Danny was shot and killed in his vehicle, they informed the couple. Earlier that night upon heading out of his family home, Danny had told his parents he was going to a friend’s to study. Instead, he drove his little red truck to another part of town to buy opioids.
Aedín is a small black six-year-old quarter horse mare who was saved from the kill pens last year. When she arrived three months ago to live at our ranch she had not been trained or ridden. In horsemanship terms, you would say she hadn’t been ‘broken’. Broken––such an incisively appropriate term for what we do to horses (and people I would add). In order to feel safe on the back of one thousand pounds of wild horse muscle, trainers notoriously intimidate, bully and manipulate their four-legged companions into submission, rendering them emotionally numb and spiritually bereft. Cowboys call these horses proudly ‘yes ma’am-ers’. I call them a tragedy.