Not because there is anything new to say, but because we have to find new ways to claim the ancient vision. We have to discover new paths to the place Isaiah dreamed of – I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster. Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders, you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. (60:17-18.)
If we don’t acknowledge the generational pain that is an everyday experience of people of color in our land, and if we don’t admit to and confront the racism that lingers in our hearts and continues to sway our politics, then we will find ourselves on the slippery slope that leads to anarchy. Are we already there?
We always thought RZ was the strongest kid in our junior high class. He was the athlete, the aggressive one. The comparison between him and JT was stark – one slim and chiseled, the other significantly overweight, lethargic. One day someone started making fun of JT and kept it up until he started to cry. Tears didn’t stop the taunts. None of us bystanders did or said a thing to intervene. This was a school playground, an environment that preys upon the weak and gives itself over to the survival of the fittest. Alliances were formed and reformed every day of the week.
As the taunting continued, JT began to breath heavy through the tears, almost to the point of hyperventilating. Then, something happened that no one saw coming. JT exploded. I can still hear him saying over and over again: I’m going to kill him! From contented lethargy to pain, and from unattended pain to anger, and from intense anger to rage. This was like a laboratory experiment that was designed to speed up a process that can take decades to happen anywhere else. JT was crying and screaming, and hatred burst forth from him with a speed and energy that became a threat not only to the kid doing the taunting, but to the entire culture of the playground.
Fortunately, RZ jumped into the picture and from behind he put his arms around JT. The struggle wasn’t to address the injustice or start a conversation that could lead to resolution. Now the struggle was to contain the rage. It was a combination of words – You aren’t going to kill him, Joey! Let it go! You’re alright … RZ was speaking the words while straining to hold on. Slowly JT began to give in; calm returned. The taunter was pale, completely intimidated, and fully aware that had JT not been restrained his day would have taken a terrible turn.
RZ was exhausted and admitted that he was not the strongest presence in the class. But neither was JT.
The strongest presence is unbridled rage fueled by unattended pain inflicted by the taunts and prejudice of immature, selfish people.
In the playground that is America, we have plenty of pain and lots of taunting. We have a growing rage, fueled by incendiary comments from politicians whose concept of “strength” never got past the emotional or intellectual level of junior high. Systems put in place to contain and reroute the rage are overwhelmed and failing. Police don’t have the training. Courts don’t have the time.
The peaceful protesters, surrounded by police to protect their right to gather, held up by a court system and Constitution that allows the freedom to congregate, speak, worship, inquire, debate, disagree, and get up and go to work together – this needs to be surrounded by yet another group, and it’s not the NRA. Those of us who are content to the point of lethargy – we are going to have to wake up, put our hands together and make the circle that takes hold of the Irish and French and British and Italian and Native and African and Asian and Mexican – take hold of the hands of the ones who came to this land on their own, hold fast the ones who came here because they were forced to, and cling to the hands of those who were here first. I don’t see any “RZ’s” on the horizon. I see a national playground that is either going to do the hard work of living peacefully together, or will give way to the anarchy of rage.
With prayers for people – too many – who are in the throws of unspeakable grief, sadness and loss. With prayers for those called upon to heal the pain and those called upon to contain the rage. Those who are content – I pray we will get up, take a stand, and let our lethargy be replaced with joyful, hope-filled activism such that “violence shall no more be heard in our land“.