Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

What We've Lost (If We Ever Had It)

Oh, Shit!

Those were my thoughts just after I stopped at a red light this morning. A white Ford truck of some sort (F150?) pulled into the left hand turn lane next to me at exactly the same time as a white car pulled into the right lane on my other side. The male passenger in the truck and the male driver in the car both lowered their windows, and started yelling across the road. 

My brain speeded through a rapid fire cycle of thoughts: Is something wrong with my car? Did I do something? What if one of them has a gun? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

I happened to have started a call to my husband who picked up then, "Hold on," I gasped, "there's something happening."

I thought my voice sounded panicked, but maybe I'm calmer than I think. My husband was focused on brewing beer, he didn't quite hear my distress.

I turned my head back and forth as if smacked by invisible ping pong paddles. Time slowed as my heart beat a million times. What's the next move? Was I about to die in a road rage incident?

The turn signal arrow lit up green. The truck drove away.  and I realized they were people who knew each other communicating across my little red hybrid car. That was all. 


I live in a state with sane gun laws. I am a short white lady with silver hair, and I acknowledge the privilege I get from those superficial aspects of me.

It was midmorning, on a busy street. There seemed to be police everywhere, either sitting at speed traps, or near construction. Yet, for that brief moment I was terrified.

When I was a little girl, I remember waving and smiling at people through the car windows, especially if we stopped at a red light. I remember making crazy arm movements to get truckers to honk the horn. I wondered if the young girl in the back seat of the station wagon next to me wanted a new friend. I even remember fantasizing that I was racing a horse along the highway as the cars whipped by, and people waved and hollored hello.

I wasn't totally naive to the dangers of the world. I saw the blood pouring out of my brother's head after he was hit by a brick thrown by a boy from an antisemitic and racist family. I witnessed my mother being attacked by that same boy's mother because we were Jewish. I had even experienced a vicious push off a tricycle myself, for the same reason. (Side note, the son of the boy who attacked my brother was imprisoned for hate crimes and murder.)

But taking long rides in the car always seemed like a safe and fun thing to do. This was before the days we had to wear seatbelts, by the way. I'd often lie between the front and back seats, if my siblings were there. Or sprawl out on the bench seat if I was alone. I didn't notice until I was learning to drive myself that my father was a dangerous driver. He drove with one foot on the gas and one on the break, and had no patience when weaving in and out of traffic on the highway.

Still, when I was in the car, it was a place where my imagination could roam, and I could make tons of friends (I was sometimes lonely). It was a place where people went on adventures to who knows where, and stories were all beginning.

I thought about that childhood as I drove away from the stop this morning. I was lucky to be able to have those moments and those drives. Our children today cannot experience those same moments, as they live in constant fear of dying by either guns or stupidity. Young adults today cannot, especially if their skin is not white or they somehow look "different,' or they have an LGBTQ sticker on their car, or they knock on the wrong door. People of all ages cannot, especially those who simply want to love who they love, be who they are, and live with justice and equality.

We have lost the ability to feel safe in our world, if we ever had it. So many of us never have.

That breaks my heart.

What has prevented us from ever being able to see beyond  the dichotomies: us and them, mine and yours, my life vs. your life, myth and truth? Are we (and by we I mean human beings) innately stupid, or simply unable to evolve beyond the need to protect ourselves from danger?

The dangers our prehistoric ancestors faced were real. Wild animals, fire, nature, disease. Though some of those dangers still exhist, the thing that threatens us most is us. Actually, these dangers still exist because we have made them worse. We are doomed because of our inability to recognize that:
  • life is more important than money
  • life is more important than guns
  • life is more important than belongings
  • life is more important than political parties
  • life is more important than fear of what happens after death, or whomever you choose to worship
  • nobody's life is more important than anyone else's
  • and life does not truly begin until you breathe your first breath.

Today was simply a moment of imagination, but one rooted in the fear of a broken society that will never find its way. I hope that, if I ever have grandchildren, they will someday be able to ride in a car, walk in a street or out in the country, or simply go to school in a healthy world without fear. 

Let's make this happen.