This week’s news was permeated by unspeakable terror—in Buffalo, New York; Mariupol, Ukraine; Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The implacable drumbeat of all this violence leaves us almost inured to the horror. The repetition, the numbers, threaten to make us forget the individual loss and pain. We cannot allow that kind of forgetfulness.

Sometimes in an effort to avoid forgetfulness, we seek comfort by retreating to our corners of the world, our imagined safe places where everyone thinks like us, looks like us, lives like us. This is such an ill-informed and destructive action. First, because it has been painfully apparent that none of these places is really safe—whether you are buying a birthday cake in a Tops grocery store in Buffalo or taking the N train from Brooklyn to work on a quiet Tuesday morning or having a cup of coffee in the Rynok Square in Lviv. Second, our retreat into these safe havens of ignorance only exacerbates the anger within ourselves, within others, and between us and others.

I am pained by the political discourse that I hear from almost everyone these days. Leadership is not asking us to become our better selves, not asking us to reach out, look forward, or look outside ourselves. Instead, they are urging American citizens to choose sides, to choose identities based on narrow definitions of self and self-determination. Political demagogues effortlessly describe the other side (whatever that side may be) as demented, unethical, criminal, ignorant, and dangerous. There is little attempt at self-reflection, no questioning of what part should I (or we) own for the current situation.

I hope that it does not sound woefully idealistic, but I do hope that we can quit listening to these voices and rather find our way back to the clarion call of Maya Angelou in her poem delivered at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton: “On the Pulse of the Morning.”

Angelou calls on us to listen to the voices and wisdom of the Rock, the River, the Tree—elements of nature that were “hosts to species long since departed.” She wants us to remain aware of the past but to remember that while we were “created only a little lower than/The angels,” we have not retained that stature. Rather we have “lain too long/Face down in ignorance.” She acknowledges the breadth of humanity in a series of Whitman like catalogues, listing a wide range of ethnic, religious, sexual, occupational, and social status identities. All have their histories and all these histories are full of “wrenching pain” which “Cannot be unlived, but if faced/With courage, need not be lived again.”

Her poem ends:

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope—
Good morning.

Were Angelou to speak of the current divisiveness, however, I believe that she would emphasize that such a greeting by a single individual while salutary is not sufficient. Healing requires collective action and collective will. First a shared “Good morning,” and then the work begins.