Duane Smith | The Sacred Influence of Family

Letters to the Editor
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“Momma! Momma! I’m through!” Those were the dying words of George Floyd. In the face of death, and I will add “pure evil,” George Floyd called out to his mother! As this 46-year-old man was being tortured for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, he did not call out to anyone else… only his mother! 

On May 30, National Geographic described Mr. Floyd’s words as a “sacred invocation.” Sacred suggests a holy reverence. Invocation suggests something godlike. George Floyd’s death anthem, “Momma! Momma! I’m through!” reminds us that the influence of parents on children is timeless and transcendent. Our nation is united with outrage, and a desire to honor George Floyd, with swift justice. 

Justifiably, angry grief is haunting all communities with historical ties to wrongful abuse at the hands of those who are paid to “protect and serve.” And, peoples from all backgrounds have come together to engage in peaceful protest. But, many seized the opportunity to brutalize, burn, steal and break things. Often those engaged in the debauchery are identified by narrating politicians and the media as young people, and kids. While there were clearly people of all ages and backgrounds indulging in mayhem, the constant refrain being broadcasted was young people, or kids. But, no mention of parents? How is it even rational to have such a grand disturbing narrative about young people, without mentioning parents? 

Equally bewildering as the absence of parents from the conversation in the sabbatical of COVID-19. What happened to COVID-19? While thousands of citizens were taking to the streets, the majority of our nation’s leadership and media either praised the peaceful protesters or condemned the troublemakers. But, there is no mention of the coronavirus? Is COVID-19 on a holiday? If we are to believe our leaders, medical experts and the media’s catastrophic preaching 24/7 for the past three months, the masses freely roaming the streets were directly exposing themselves to a deadly disease, and creating super-spreading events. Has it miraculously become safe for massive crowds to gather in close proximity for hours at a time? We know this is indeed not the case! 

Regardless, the silence from our leaders and the media regarding the coronavirus is deafening. But the silence is also a loud reminder to me as a father that my kids are my responsibility. Accountable parents can never practice silence in a crisis. For all my 51 years, I have been blessed to live in Los Angeles. I’m also fortunate to teach communication studies at L.A. Valley College. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know of the social injustices — including but not limited to racism — that plague our nation. 

In my public speaking classes, I have a front-row seat to listen to my students. My classes are composed of the most diverse group of people to be found anywhere. Tragically, however, over the past two decades, I’ve realized that, regardless of how radically different my students are in the traditional sense, there is a standout commonality that woefully unites too many of my students: broken families! It is not uncommon to have grown men and women revert to their childhood, and break down into tears as they describe an absent mother, father, or both. 

Early on during the COVID-19 crisis there was so much talk about what is, and what is not, “essential.” My classes are a constant reminder that parents are essential! On May 31, at 6:49 p.m., I received an email from a student regarding work that was due by midnight. The young woman was requesting an extension to complete her work. She explained that her younger brother was taking to the streets to protest, and she needed to go as well to protect him. It was well past the curfew. I could not help but wonder, “Where are their parents…?” Recently L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti appealed for citizens to “summon their better angels.” I wonder what would happen if such a “sacred invocation” was made to parents? What if homes were championed as stages of empowerment, where the influence of family leadership, protection, direction and love transcended above the societal ills that threaten to tear our nation apart? 

Sadly, the death of George Floyd reminds us of how truly powerful the influence of family can be. 

Sacred.

Duane Smith

Agua Dulce

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