• Cynthia McCarthy

Words Matter - "I Can't Breathe"

Updated: Sep 15




Thus far, the protests have ranged from the peaceful and powerful, to the chaotic and violent. One video in particular stood out for me last weekend. It was a peaceful “die-in” protest held in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, May 30. Thousands of protestors were chanting “I can’t breathe” over and over again while lying on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs. They did this for nine full minutes, symbolizing the nine minutes George Floyd suffered and couldn’t breathe because a police officer’s knee was on his neck.


You can see a photo of the protest here.

You can watch a video of it here.


The protest is effective. It hurts. It invokes our emotion. The message was painful to hear, but it was peaceful. It was also powerful. Words are powerful. I understand why they did what they did and chanted what they chanted, and I applaud the protestors for executing an effective, peaceful demonstration. I understand and fully support it, but I’m also concerned and just want to share my thoughts.


Recreating the tragic scene while repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe” over and over, charged with the emotion of anger (rightly so!) is programming people’s consciousness to attract this very experience. New thought philosophies and the law of attraction teach that our word is one with Infinite Life, God, Spirit, etc. Our word is creative. It’s what Jesus taught. He demonstrated his unity with the Divine Presence and declared his word, speaking it into form. It’s the basis for affirmative prayer and spiritual mind treatment. Our words, thoughts, and beliefs create and manifest our world. It is how consciousness works.


We know words are energy. They have a vibration. When we speak words passionately in a collective group, they are even more powerful. (Remember that bit from the Bible about when two or more are gathered?) Chanting together “I can’t breathe” is potentially manifesting the collective experience of people not being able to breathe.

Why does this matter? What am I getting at here?

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic with a deadly virus that robs people of…the ability to breathe. Covid-19 can cause severe lung damage, pneumonia, shortness of breath, and respiratory failure. While local and state-wide lockdown restrictions across the U.S. have just begun being lifted, most medical experts agree precautions should still be taken, like wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. It is much too soon to congregate in large groups. In this time of rebelling against social injustice, many (understandably!) feel they have no choice.


Here we have over a thousand people, most not wearing masks, crammed close together, collectively declaring for themselves: “I can’t breathe.” I’ll say again that I was deeply moved by the protest and understand the logic—but I cringe at what it affirms. George Floyd’s murder is an outrage, and yes, there should be protests to bring about justice and real change. It’s far past time, but perhaps we can affirm better things while doing it. George Floyd and countless other victims of systemic racism tragically lost their ability to breathe, but those who are here, able to protest, able to create change, we can breathe.



It is important to affirm the outcome we wish to experience, affirm the good we want to see happen, the good we know to be true. We can breathe life into this movement and breathe life into the ideas of unity, justice, and freedom. We can affirm the Truth of our oneness—our oneness with God and our oneness with each other.



Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. If we shout from the place of oppression, the pain of suffocation, and the moment of death, expecting a positive life-giving solution to manifest—it won’t happen. We need to be clear in our speech, our thoughts, and our affirmations.


Reader, please know that I struggled with whether to publish this blogpost. I’m aware I have an unusual perspective, and the last thing I want to do is criticize anyone’s method of protesting. I believe strongly in the creative power of our words. I’m now seeing “I can’t breathe” all over the world, on face masks, printed on shirts, painted on the side of freight trains, and on banners flying across the sky. The chants continue at more and more protests.


It makes me want to pray...


Let us be consciously aware that our word is God’s word. Our breath is God’s breath. I affirm health and wholeness for those of us who are using our outrage to bravely take action. I trust in the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that I know already exists in every human heart. May we all breathe in the eternal Life Essence and let our thoughts dwell, not on a lack of breath or the suffocation of oppression, but on that which breathes life—Infinite Intelligence, God, Spirit, Source.


Affirm good things.




With much love and peace,

Rev Cynthia


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