I can’t watch anymore

I can’t watch any more. I dread turning on the news because I never know if there will be more pictures of flashing lights, tear-stained faces, people huddled with their arms around each other, more anguished parents and more heart-broken children.

I can’t listen any more as yet another mayor states (correctly) that this town is a nice town, a peaceable town, maybe the safest town in America.  And the mayor can’t imagine – how could anyone –  that something like this could happen here.

I can’t listen again as earnest reporters ask breathless and pointless questions. What was going through your mind? Can you describe how you were feeling? What was it like?

I can’t hear again how this gun or that piece of equipment was legally bought but illegally used. Or how this legally purchased weapon was illegally modified to increase its killing power.

I can’t listen to another devastated parent tell the world about their beloved child and just how loved, precious, and treasured that child is. I don’t even want to hear about the heroics of the first responders who bravely, incredibly, run toward gunfire instead of to safety. I can’t look at the pain etched on faces of police officers as they describe their colleague as a “cop’s cop.”

I don’t want to see another homemade memorial with flowers and candles and teddy bears, marking lives interrupted. And I can’t even listen to “Amazing Grace” (a hymn I used to love with its profoundly meaningful history) that has been taken over as the official mourning cry of a nation who doesn’t know how else to respond.  No matter how well sung, the song grates on my nerves as we mourn our dead but seem paralyzed as to other responses or solutions.

It happens again and again and again.

I am so tired.  I can’t watch. i can’t listen.

Because I know exactly how it will look.  I know precisely what people will say.

And I am so tired of it all.

The Rev. Eric Anderson wrote a song that expresses my thoughts beautifully. He writes, “I wrote this song after Las Vegas, and fifty-nine candles blazed across the front of our church. I recorded it after Parkland. I could have sung it again LAST WEEK. I don’t want to light another candle.”

I will think and I will pray.

I will work for gun control.

But I won’t watch those images any more.

 

Standing up for Peace

Does standing on a street corner change the world? I wondered that as I stood with about 15 other folks at an intersection in a quiet New England town, population 4,124, with a racial diversity score of about zero.

What was I accomplishing? Was anything achieved?

Maybe not. But two days after the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville VA, I felt the need to do something. And standing with signs that read “Peace” and “End Bigotry” and “Love is louder than hate” helped us bear witness to the powerful vision of hope. It was a way to say “no” to that hate-filled rally.

One man in a truck shook his head and gave us a “thumbs down” signal. I wondered exactly what he was disagreeing with. Peace is not a good idea? Diversity shouldn’t be encouraged? But it was not a place for conversation so I’ll never know what his thoughts were.

Mostly we heard horns honking as drivers smiled and waved or flashed the peace sign. One bicyclist shouted, “Good job!” as he sped past. Several people shouted, “Thank you!” as they drove by.

The world didn’t change on that Monday afternoon. But our voices of hope and determination were heard. A witness to peace, unity and love was given.

I stood up for peace because I didn’t want the marchers in Virginia to have the last word. In our media-saturated world where images of angry torch-bearing racists fill our screens, it’s too easy to believe that their voices were the only ones speaking.

But this ragtag group of women and men, one little girl and a couple of dogs stood together for peace. And that action was repeated in towns and cities across our country. Those gatherings – big and little, at rural intersections and city parks – are a reminder that every action of kindness, love and welcome is important.

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It’s time to do what we can, in big and little ways. In some ways, it’s easy to stand up against obvious hatred like Nazi flag-wielding thugs. It’s clear they are on the wrong side of history and that their message has no place in a fair and equal democracy. They are dangerous and disturbing, but in a loud, in-your-face kind of way.

Subtle forms of racism are more challenging to recognize and rebuke. I hope our street-side gathering also reminds us to be aware and stay attuned to the many ways that too many people are treated differently.

  • One kind word
  • One small protest
  • One refusal to allow hate to have the last word

These actions, taken together, can change the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Can we talk?

The banner hanging on the “welcome shack” at the entrance of our state church summer camp, Silver Lake, stated “Black Lives Matter.” During a weekend when several different groups were holding events at the camp, someone took a marker to the banner and wrote “All Lives Matter.”

Which is right?  Does saying that “Black lives matter” negate other lives or somehow make other lives less valuable?

Our Conference Minister, the Rev. Kent Siladi, wrote a compassionate letter  addressed to all Christians in the Connecticut Conference. He stated, “We have had spirited arguments with friends and colleagues who fervently believe that “All” lives matter, and that to single out some lives seems to diminish the worthiness of others. We disagree with that analysis, although we welcome the conversation about this.”

The conversation is not easy. After the camp banner was defaced, someone asked me, “Why is this wrong?  Don’t all lives matter?  Isn’t that what the banner should say – that God loves all of us?”

Asking questions may be the first part of this important conversation.  But then we need to be prepared to listen to a variety of opinions.  Are we willing to take that risk? Can we engage in conversation with each other?  Can we really listen to one another?

My answer to those questions would be – Of course God loves all people and all lives. Our congregation celebrates that in worship every Sunday when I announce the Good News that “God loved the world – and every single person in it so much – that God gave his only Son, Jesus.”

If we had enough banners, we could list all the people who matter – that would be everyone. But sometimes it is necessary to lift up individual stories and listen to the particular accounts of people who have suffered along the journey toward equality and justice. “All Lives” can learn from these sometimes hidden histories of pain and struggle. In order to engage in conversation, we need to be attentive to voices that are too often silenced.  We need to listen to Blacks, women, immigrants, Native Americans, Jews, lesbians, gays, and transgender – anyone who has experienced life on the margins of society. Each story is precious and can’t be contained under the sweeping label of “all.” These individual experiences need to be heard.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be necessary to emphasize that Black lives matter – it would be obvious. In a perfect world, every race, color, gender, and culture would be honored and treated equally. But this isn’t a perfect world.

The banner at the camp welcome shack was an attempt to announce to everyone – but perhaps especially to people of color – that in this place, we will be intentional about our hospitality. In this place we will endeavor to do what too often is not done – we will treat everyone with the respect they deserve as a beloved child of God. It’s important to say it out loud – to put up a banner announcing it – because throughout history that respect has not always been given. That continues to be the case too often even today.

It’s too easy to say, “All lives matter.” Instead, we are invited to lift up those lives that have been excluded, hurt, and dismissed. We need to have this conversation – over and over again.

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