Friday, August 15, 2014

When the News Beats Us Up—Time to Step Up, Not Away

A protestor in in Ferguson, Missouri raises his hands, the same position 18 year old Michael Brown was in when he was gunned down by police.  He faces scores of heavily armed and militarized police.  Time to stand by his side.

Some weeks just beat you up.  Make you want to curl up and pull the covers over your head.  This would be one of them. 
In my little religious community, the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry hard on the heels of death by suicide of our beloved Rev. Jennifer Slade, came the news about Robin Williams—yes “just another celebrity” but one who deeply touched many lives with both his manic humor and his nuanced performances of people who were sometimes giving, sometimes damaged.  It felt like we knew him and for many of us it evoked again our own challenges, or those of loved ones, with the demons of depression. 
Then there is the ongoing violence in Gaza.   Whether or not this or that fragile truce holds, the fact is that a whole people have been brutally punished and remain essentially prisoners in their own land. 
Michael Brown, a young unarmed Black man in Ferguson, Missouri is gunned down by police as his hands are in the air in surrender.  When minor looting breaks out on the fringe of large peaceful demonstrations, the national media keeps showing the looting in continuous loops while ignoring the protests.  Since then peaceful protests have continued without violence—except by the heavily militarized police.  And night by night the police escalate a war against the citizens employing tear gas, armored cars, and the widespread use of rubber and wooden bullets fired indiscriminately into neighborhoods.  Reporters have been arrested, journalists targeted with gas attacks, cameras banned and smashed, a no-fly zone declared to prevent the world from learning what is going on. 
And, as if all of that were not enough, oh yes, we are dropping bombs again in Iraq supposedly for noble humanitarian reasons but really because we as a nation have a hammer of military might and every problem looks like a nail….
Discouraging?  You bet.  But no matter how much just the news makes you suffer it not your life or your families lives that are on the line.  Hiding from it will not save you.  It will make you, however unwittingly, an accomplice.
None of us have the power to stop these things.  All of us have the power to move the world, if only a little, along that long promised arc that bends towards justice.  We are called to crawl out from under the covers and unleash our love—muscular love—applied with plenty of elbow grease.  Not platitudes but action.
First, pay attention to those around us, to our families, friends, and neighbors, but also to the chance encounters of our daily lives.  Listen, really listen.  Look and really see.  Feel the cues of cloaked despair.  Then simply reach out.  Not to cure—that’s not in our capacity—but to care.  To offer solace and support but also gentle guidance to find the real help that is out there.  That’s not so much.  We can all do that.
Other things are bigger and more complex.  They frustrate us even if we are well intentioned because we don’t know just where to start.  Well, in the case of Ferguson and on behalf of all of Black Americans who not only feel but know that they are under attack by authorities and that their lives are worthless in many eyes, we can finally honestly admit and confront the ingrained and institutional racism in this country.  No easy task admitting that even as well meaning White folk we have actually benefited from the suppression of the Black community and the marginalization of its citizens.

Acknowledgement is only the start to the application of love.  We must act on that acknowledgment.  As good a place as any to start as any were the National Moment of Silence (NMOS14) vigils held across the country last night.  More actions are being planned in many locations over the next few day.   Find one near you.  As the Tree of Life’s minister, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison wrote in his appeal for participation in the NMOS vigils:

…if you can’t get there, have a moment of silence where you are. Write about it. Tell people why you care. Send letters to the editor, put it on your FB wall and/or tweet it. Blog about it. TALK about it. Solidarity matters.
In Gaza, Israel, and Palestine we cannot untangle personally the web of old hatreds, resentments, and wounds.  There is blame enough to go around.  Victims and victimizers flip-flop positions in the blink of an eye.  But we can stop allowing our nation to be an enabler of what is rapidly becoming potentially genocidal.  First we must abandon the fear that criticism of the Israeli state will be denounced as anti-Semitic.  We must reaffirm the rights of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live safely and securely.  Then, until the Israeli government drastically changes it policies toward Gaza—and to the people of the West Bank as well, we need to demand that the United States suspend all enabling arms sales and military aid.  Join the efforts of Amnesty International at #stopthearms @amnestyonline on Twitter or the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
As for Iraq.  Well, that comes under the heading, Cleaning up the shit we piled up—not we as individuals but we as nation.  So much of the horror there is the fallout of George W. Bush’s foolhardy and reckless invasion of Iraq and the splintering of that fragile state into warring religious and ethnic groups.  Every time we “pick a side” to be “our guys” we make enemies of everyone else and more than once “our guys” have turned out to be worse than the ones before—witness ISIS—the so-call Islamic Caliphate  who just months ago were the “good guys” John McLain wanted to arm for a war on the Assad regime in neighboring Syria.   

American peace forces are just beginning  to gin up opposition to the bombing campaign and support for non-military support for endangered minorities.  But at least we can lend our signatures to United for Peace and Justice and their campaign to get Members of Congress to sign onto a letter drafted by Representatives Barbara Lee (D) of California and Scott Rigell (R) of Virginia to President Barack Obama calling on him to stop the bombing.
And if you can’t do everything, do something.  Love calls us to action.

No comments:

Post a Comment