Sunday, March 25, 2018

Thoughts on Parkland on Palm Sunday

Love is stronger than death.  Tragedy will not have the last word in human history.  That, for Christians, sums up the meaning of Holy Week.

With Palm Sunday at hand, young people made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a.k.a. Washington, D.C.) this weekend, the seat of a corrupt, monied and brutal state, calling for an end to violence and bearing a message of idealism and hope.  The crowds (a.k.a.the national media) adored them, throwing palms and welcoming them with shouts of Hosanna.  

Meanwhile, Herod and Pilate knew who controlled the legions, and knew how easily the multitudes of voters could be distracted by other spectacles.  “What is truth?” asked jesting PIlate.  To him, it was all fake news.  

The chronology is not quite right.  That old story ended in crucifixion, in one man’s blameless blood being spilled.  This revised version began with the slaughter of innocents as seventeen students in Florida were gunned down by the fusillade of an AR-15.  The narratives agree in this much, however: for no good reason, there was a massacre, and the authorities treated it as business as usual.  

Jesus was executed as an enemy of the state: a threat to existing structures of power and privilege.  Crucifixion, in the Roman Empire, was a sentence reserved solely for the crime of sedition or inciting insurrection against the hegemony.  

The students who led rallies across America yesterday to ban assault-style weapons are likewise receiving death threats.  How many more will have to die before their demands for non-violent change are made effective?  With school shootings almost weekly, no one knows.  The answer is probably too many.  

We can take heart, though, in knowing that resistance is not futile.  The good news  of Easter is that goodness has power.  Decency and kindness may suffer temporary setbacks, may even seem to perish entirely, but will resurrect in the peoples’ struggles for justice and dreams of peace.  In the words of eighteen year old Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez, “"if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”  

Didn’t same prophets who said the promised one would come riding on a colt also proclaim that the children would lead the way? 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts on Charleston ...

Racism is like a disease or virus.  Hatred festers quietly, incubating in some obscure corner.  And like measles or Ebola we think we have the monster controlled, perhaps even vanquished, until another outbreak reminds us that the sickness is still in our midst and always has been. 

The senseless murder of nine worshipers in an African Methodist Episcopal Church by a young, white supremacist ideologue, Dylan Roof, is a searing reminder that America’s history of racial violence is with us still.  The passing of time, the turning of generations, has not been sufficient to contain the illness.  Racial hate has not been quarantined to the past – to the bad old days of Bull Connor or the KKK – but continues to infect the minds and hearts of even the youngest.

Signs of progress, hopes that the sickness is abating (like the election of an African American president seven years ago) are countered by the clear evidence that microbes of malice continue to multiply.  Indeed, when President Obama opened his White House twitter account for the first time last month and sent a message of goodwill to his countrymen and women, the response was a flood of race-baiting vitriol.  Not only is the disease still active.  It threatens to reach epidemic proportions. 

In these plague times, indifference is not enough.  Pretending to be “color-blind” or insensitive to racial disparities is not sufficient.  Treating Dylan Roof’s act of savagery as the isolated blunder of a misguided young man will not do, any more than treating a single viral specimen of rabies as an isolated organism will do.  It is a symptom and harbinger of a malady that will linger until its moment comes to manifest in fevers of madness and destruction. 

Like doctors without borders or the CDC, decent-minded people must not only look inward to purge and protect themselves from this illness.  They must travel to the front lines to combat the virus where it exists.  We must become vigilant in our pro-active resistance to racism to build resistance in others.  We must name and turn the microscopes of media examination on this animal, exposing it as the malevolent beast that it is.   We must join in public outcry.  For exposure to the light is like a powerful antiseptic. 

Why did the KKK ride at night?  Why do the authors of malicious tweets cloak themselves in anonymity? The germs cannot breed, except in darkness. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

America Has A Problem

Being youthful, black and male should not be a crime, but Freddie Gray’s death is Baltimore is the latest in a string of police assaults on unarmed African American men.  Before that, just in the last few months, there was Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, John Crawford in Dayton, Ohio, Ezell Ford in Florence, California, Dante Parker in Victorville, California, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, NY, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, Rumain Brisban in Phoenix, Arizona, Jerame Reid in New Jersey, Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin,  and the list goes on.  There is a pattern here that black people have always known about but that now even white folks are beginning to see.  Young black men are being profiled, harassed, victimized and all too often murdered by the police who are supposed to protect the public and dispense equal justice to all. 

What is the remedy?  Body cameras on cops are a good idea.  Here are some other initiatives that make sense:

  • ·        establishing special prosecutors whose sole job would be investigating police misconduct (ending the chummy relationship between law enforcement and District Attorneys)
  • ·        hiring more women on the police force (females tend to be better at negotiation and de-escalating confrontations that men)
  • ·        de-militarizing departments that have become tooled up with tanks, drones and wartime technology
  • ·        providing better training to enable police to deal with psychiatric issues as illness rather than criminal offense. 

First and foremost, we must collectively admit that racism is a societal problem.  We cannot just blame the police without also shouldering a portion of the responsibility for overcoming the legacy of discrimination that continues to make inequality the norm in our country.  Maintaining “law and order” must do more than perpetuate a system that distributes wealth, rank and privilege to those already connected to the echelons of power and opportunity. It is up to each of us to create a future where every child has an equal chance in life.  Until then, we will get the police we deserve.