The U. S. government has a long, sordid history of treating black people as second-class citizens in conflict of our founding documents, the 5th, 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to our Constitution, as well as the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts passed in the 1960s.
Despite that mistreatment, many of us have pledged to “support and defend” this country even to death if death is demanded.
But our commitment doesn’t make mistreatment at the hands of our fellow citizens easier to accept.
“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” Title 5, Section 3331, the United States Code
Whether you advocate a revolution or incremental repair to a broken model of leadership really depends on how much you are suffering. Those suffering the least are less likely to relate to those enduring the most…and less likely to want a radical change.
“You say you want a revolution Well, you know We all want to change the world You tell me that it’s evolution Well, you know We all want to change the world But when you talk about destruction Don’t you know that you can count me out …” Revolution, The Beatles
A friend expressed sadness over #45’s reaction to the latest school shooting, wishing desperately that “just once” there would be a more presidential response. I think he was looking for some demonstrated empathy.
People want to ascribe evil to only the most extreme behavior and label it inhuman. But evil is an all TOO human characteristic. And just like all the “isms” plaguing American society, is rooted in human frailty and fear.
“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.” ~ W. H. Auden, English poet
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Many Americans seem to only be capable of empathy toward family or people who look like them… like the anti-LGTBQ politician who softens his stance when his daughter reveals her homosexuality or the white suburban mom crusading against drug addiction who suddenly calls for treatment versus incarceration when the heroin addicts look like her kids.
Those Americans have been unable to empathize with the black and brown bodies videoed being brutalized so it was interesting to see their reaction to the violent arrest of a white nurse for upholding her hospital policy and protecting an unconscious patient.
Maybe they are waking up the realization that in a militarized police state, the brutality will eventually impact everyone…
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Martin Niemöller
I am a late Boomer. I was a pre-teen for most of the things that shaped the older Boomers…the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Woodstock, protesting and deploying to Vietnam, putting their lives at risk as foot soldiers for the Civil Rights movement. Boomer 1 got free love…Boomer 2 got AIDS.
We started with such promise, but the Boomers have overseen the disintegration of our infrastructure, disinvestment in our education system, delayed development of our kids, decline in our world standing and deep division in our world views. We are responsible for the election of the last Boomer-in-Chief, #45, and the disaster that is his presidency.
What’s next…nuclear war?
“A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren; ill-gotten wealth ends up with good people.” Proverbs 13:22
This week, while some Americans were celebrating the American Experiment, the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were marking the 1-year anniversary of their state-sanctioned deaths.
While many Americans over indulged, over 2 million Americans, almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, provided practically free labor to corporations focused on profits.
Many American’s seem to accept these realities as indictments against other Americans. They cannot see their connection to or comprehend their complicity in the systemic and relentless racism that is the reality for many in this country.
“No one is free until we are all free.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“God does not place His promises in our hand, He places them within our reach, which means we have to do our part.” ~ Priscilla Shirer
You’ve heard a version of this story: Man in peril (sailboat capsized in the ocean, stuck on the side of a mountain, floodwaters rising, etc.), we’ll call him Paul, cries to God for help. Rescue comes in various forms, but Paul does not reach out to be rescued. And then he drowns or falls to his death, depending on the version of the story. When an angry Paul encounters God, he asks, “God, why didn’t you save me?” And God says, “Paul, I did MY part” …and He lists the various forms of rescue.
The point? Paul, described in at least one version of the story as faithful, did not do his part. He confidently expected God’s response to his request and his faith was justified. But he didn’t take action; he didn’t do what he needed to do to activate his faith.
I use this story for a lot of concepts … expectations, opportunities, etc. but it’s also a great illustration of the faith-activating action referred to in Ephesians.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6: 16
I admit, I have struggled to stay positive in the face of so much injustice, so much hypocrisy … so much inhumanity. I haven’t been able to watch the videoed violence against black bodies, seemingly a new one each week, but like most people of color at least, each incident has impacted my sense of security. It’s personal…it’s frustrating…it’s heartbreaking.
I weep at night for the families and friends directly impacted. I look at the faces of the black people I see on the train and wonder…”How are you doing? How are you coping with the trauma?”
And then I remember that “suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.” ~ Pema Chodron.