As I sit to write this post, so much is still unfolding in regard to the rally-turned-insurrection that took place in America’s capitol building last week. It feels premature to write about it, and irresponsible not to address it in some fashion. So, here are my preliminary thoughts.
The image that has come to define the day for me is the video of a crowd of white supremacists (and yes, I use that term intentionally) slowly driving a single black officer up a stairwell somewhere within the capitol building. The fact that the white mob had no respect for that official is plain, and quite contradictory to the president’s incessant calls for his version of “law and order.” Clearly, law and order mean different things to different people in this country.
A black family member (yes, I have them, and I love them) posted that they no longer feel safe in any type of gathering of four or more white people. Unfortunately, that includes their family. I can’t imagine that—and yet I can, because there have been times I have felt unsafe with a family member whose energetic defense of the Trump era has been issued in a way that felt like an attack on me (regardless of how it was meant on their side).
We have forgotten the simple, fundamental concept of respect in America. We have forgotten how to treat each other with decency. We have been trained through multiple sources to view our fellow citizens and even our family members as enemies. It will be a long and hard road to overcome this, if we even can. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, and that grieves me deeply.
I will also say this. We have to try. We have to do our part. I have begun an email conversation with that Trump-defending family member—not about the president, but about the issue of racism in our country. Even though I feel a stress response in my body when I do (heart racing, adrenaline rising, muscles tensing—is this what my black family members feel too much of the time?), I feel called by God to do this. I have set guardrails that make me comfortable enough to proceed, and email is a venue that doesn’t allow emotional energies as much power. It is critical that we remember, in one way or another, to respect everyone in our family—and in our human family.
I am not saying that we open ourselves up to abuse. I am saying that if we feel called, if the opportunity arises, if we can make the situation safe enough for ourselves, we must take the chance to display respect, listen carefully, revision relationship, and recognize our common humanity. Through the process, we will definitely learn things about ourselves, and we will hopefully learn more about the thoughts and fears of the other as well.
I invite you to pray about the relationship you might most need to re-envision, and the people you need to respect, even if you will never agree. What risks are you being called to take in light of last week’s events?
None of us has any idea WHAT HAPPENED at the Capitol on 6 January.
There was chaos. We saw enough images to have all of our innate prejudices validated. We will probably never know.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with soul-searching. I commend you and everyone earnestly engaged in that endeavour. I invite you to consider, “Who profits from an environment of suspicion towards our family, friends, and neighbours?”
I remember back to 22 November, 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy. There was a singular event that rapidly devolved into a maelstrom of images, observations and anecdotal evidence. A commission was enpaneled to determine what precisely happened.
The Warren Report, produced by a distinguished panel of gentlemen in government, law enforcement and intelligence, ultimately answered nothing. No definitive answer exists to this day.
The ugly fact is that many of us, on however many “sides” exist, will use the riot to validate our own prejudices and stop there.
If one wishes to believe white supremacists were responsible, there is evidence sufficient to substantiate that belief. If another wishes to attribute the disaster to agent provocateurs, there is evidence for that. The two assumptions are not mutually exclusive.
Yesterday we went to a Veterans’ Cemetery to visit the grave of my in-laws. There was another visitor at the cemetery, a young African-American paying his respects to his brother. We got to talking about life and events and discovered we had more in common, a lot more, than the popular notion of a “nation divided” would lead us to think. I shared how COVID-19 has contributed to a sense of isolation on my part. Here I had a chance to talk to,somebody.
So there’s hope. A lot of hope. And it derives from our own experiences and not the “news”.
Oh, David, thank you for this heartfelt response. I agree that we don’t know everything that happened, nor will we. And yes, it’s important to notice how the powerful (usually) do benefit from keeping us divided. I believe we can make a difference and find hope when we honestly and openly listen, learn, and respond to the best of our abilities. I am so glad that you had an opportunity to find common ground (in a sense, literally!) at the veterans’ cemetery. When God gives us those opportunities and we embrace them, we become part of that hope. I pray that we both will have more of them!
We weren’t “looking” for that experience. It just happened. You know like a stranger on the road to Emmaus.
Thanks for that clarification, David. You were open to it, and I do think that makes a big difference!
Blessings Shirin. Thank you David G. for your kindness filled comments. I pray for opportunities to have conversation, meaningful peace and kindness filled conversation, with regard to our country. It is challenging for me to listen to family members, and my good friends – coffee buds – who believe contrary to what I believe in this arena. May God bless us everyone. Amen.
Thank you, Ray. Yes, it is hard when people close to us believe differently about important things. I love what David said about finding common ground and pray that you and your coffee buds may recognize that more than coffee holds you together as you navigate these times…. May God bless all of you!