On Facebook, I shared a link to an article about protestors claiming to represent the #BlackLivesMatters movement who disrupted an event where Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak. I spoke about the article in terms of transformation:
As I read the article below, as well as comments from many friends, I remembered this:
"the biggest lie told by people like me to people like you at election time is that, 'If you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems.' The truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine." - Howard Dean, 2004
And so I ask, "Where is transformation taking place in the 2016 election?"
Currently, there are twenty-eight comments on the post, representing many different viewpoints, yet it feels like almost none of them are confronting the underlying question of personal transformation. What does it mean to say, “you have the power?” What is this power we have, and how should we use it? I am reminded of the cartoon where the politician ask, “Who wants change?” and everyone raises their hands. Then, he asks, “Who wants to change?” and no one raises their hands.
I’ve often heard preachers pray that their words might distress the comfortable and comfort the distressed, and I think this is an important part of the discussion. It feels like some Bernie supporters are comfortable talking about economic justice. Perhaps they come out of the #Occupy movement. They seem to believe that the economic populism of the Sanders campaign will bring not only economic justice, but racial justice. People standing up and saying, “No, that is not enough” is distressing, the sort of distress a preacher might hope to bring. Economic populism, especially economic populism that asks little of anything other than the 1%, is not enough. We must all work together, making sacrifices, that there might be real, economic, racial and social justice.
A common response to “#BlackLivesMatter” is “#AllLivesMatter”. I’ve often had discussions with people for whom #BlackLivesMatter is a very important hashtag. They see #AllLivesMatter as a cop-out, a means of avoiding, or even denying that for too many people in power in our country, black lives do not seem to matter. This has played out in the comments on my Facebook post, and I return to distressing the comfortable.
To those who are comfortable saying #BlackLivesMatter and uncomfortable with those who would water it down to #AllLivesMatter, please listen. Saying #BlackLivesMatter is very important. However, there are times when saying #AllLivesMatter may be what is needed. I have relatives who are white law enforcement officers, relatives that have jumped to the defense of officers involved in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I have relatives posting racist comments about our President. I probably even have friends that agree with Donald Trump in his dismissal of political correctness. Most of these people are not able to hear the message that #BlackLivesMatter. Trying to get them to admit that #AllLivesMatter, and not just #OnlyMyLifeMatters is a major battle. From what I hear from Trump and his supporters, it seems like too many people in our country don’t even believe that #AllLivesMatter. To them, all that matters is themselves. We need to reach people where they are at.
Yet to those who really do believe that #AllLivesMatter, and cannot bring themselves to say #BlackLivesMatter, we must also distress them.
One person commented, “I am so absolutely sick of BLM. ALM!!!!!” I, too, am sick of having to say #BlackLivesMatter. I wish I didn’t have to confront people with the truth that for too many in our country, black lives do not seem to matter. That too many people in our country are unwilling to look at systemic racism, or at their own unconscious racist attitudes. We cannot simply switch to #AllLivesMatter to be more comfortable.
In that discussion, I responded, “Recently, three friends have lost their sons. As I grieve with them, I talk about how their sons’ lives mattered. I could say that all lives matter. It would be true. It would also be very disrespectful.”
#IsaacWasHere. One of those sons was Isaac. His mother has fought hard for social justice. She also fought hard to start a family. I imagine if I scrolled back far enough in her timeline on Facebook, I would find some very important posts about #BlackLivesMatter, but now, all I see is grief. I cannot being to say how wrong it would be to respond to #IsaacWasHere with #BlackLivesMatter. Both are true, but responding #BlackLivesMatter in this context would be so wrong. Responding #AllLivesMatter to those fighting for racial and social justice in the wake of Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Charleston, the list seems endless, is just as wrong.
#IsaacWasHere. I have said his name. I will also #SayHerName. More accurately, I will say the name of one of one victim of police brutality against women. Sandra Bland. Hers is not the only name. In a recent faith study group, one of the women, a woman of color, with a strong voice, a Sunday school teacher, spoke about her fears. She could easily see herself in Sandra Bland’s situation. Others said that things like that happen in the south, but not here in Connecticut. This led to a discussion of policing in East Haven. This is not just a problem that happens somewhere else. It happens in our own backyards. We were discussing the Psalms and what our responsibilities are in proclaiming The Word of The Lord. To me, I return to Psalm 19:14
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
To my friends of faith, I challenge you to pray this before each comment you make online. I find it a hard challenge to keep this in my mind as I read what others post online.
I am uncomfortable writing all of this. I hope others are uncomfortable reading this. If we want justice, if we want transformation, we need to get out of our comfort zones.
On my birthday, looked at the candles, took a deep breath, and what should I wish for? I glance up at the night sky and see the first star, or perhaps a shooting star, and what should I wish for? I glance at my clock. 11:11, and what should I wish for.
What are my unconscious wishes? How do they match what others wish for me? What are the implications, the ramifications, of my wishes? Am I willing to do the work that it takes for my wishes to come true? And how will I feel, when my wishes come true and those wishes affect the people around me? Is that really part of what I’m wishing for?
We are all on a journey, from the cradle to the grave (we are born astride the grave, to borrow from Beckett), or, in Jesus’ case from the manager to the tomb. There are many twists and turns along this journey, intentional, unintentional, of our own choosing, or thrust upon us.
I’ve taken much of my journey on a day to day basis, but events over the past few months have caused me to start looking at the next few years differently, focusing on a long term spiritual journey. I’ve been thinking and writing about this a lot recently, and have shared some of my thoughts and writings with various friends.
I’ve found friends who are on similar journeys. Some of them are sharing parts of their journeys online as well. Over the coming days, I hope to link to some of them here. Some are circumspect about their journeys. A common theme is not being sure exactly where the journey leads and even uncertainty about the path.
One friend mentioned the Camino de Santiago, and I’m using this as one of the metaphors for my journey, along with many great road stories, both in books and film. On the Camino, a common greeting is Buen Camino, and it is becoming a common epilogue to my posts.
I hope to have more to share over the coming days, but for now,
The loud thump
from a heavy dead weight
hitting the floor in the kitchen
shook me from a deep sleep
in my bedroom
in the basement
beneath the kitchen.
We lived far from town
so an intruder was unlikely
but so was timely help
if I could even get
to the phone
in the kitchen.
I was on edge since my father left
and I often came home
my mother in tears
at the kitchen table.
Had she done something rash?
In late November
the previous year
I had gone canoeing with my father.
Snow had already fallen
but the lake had not frozen yet.
A cold wind
had raised the waves.
On the lake
a solitary goose
with a broken wing
swam searching for food.
“He can’t fly south,”
my father said.
“He’ll freeze and starve to death, here”.
And so, the wild goose chase began
as we paddled after him.
When we got close
he’d dive under the water.
A scared goose with a broken wing
is still a strong swimmer.
Eventually, my father caught him
and put him in the freezer.
As I was lying in bed,
my heart still thumping
for other sounds
I heard more thumps
being knocked across the floor.
My curiosity grew larger than my fear
and gathering up all my courage
I headed upstairs.
There, I found our dog,
a large white Samoyed,
who had knocked the frozen goose
off the bread table
where it had been left to thaw
for tomorrow’s dinner.
To him, it was a giant
I put the goose
in a safer place
out of the reach
of the dog
It is Friday evening at home. A very long week comes to an end, and the weekend begins. On social media, some friends are still posting about the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Others are posting prayer requests for friends having difficult times. Some are posting pictures of their trips to Cape Cod. We are planning heading out to the Cape in a few weeks.
I’ve mostly caught up on various social media and emails; at least enough to call it a night shortly. I’ve written a little. Not as much as I would like, but that is because I’m so tired.
Years ago, I lived on a sailboat in New York City. There was a school teacher on the boat next to mine. She talked about her Friday evenings. Taking two aspirin and going to bed. I’ll skip the aspirin, but I’ll head off to bed really soon.