Silent Too Long

Perhaps the greatest evil in our country today is the silence of the larger crowd. I think of the communities I grew up in, the line of people I come from, the hard working salt-of-the-earth folk who came here because they were tired of being hunted down like animals. People who wanted to own land and live and pray in peace and thrive. People who stayed out of politics and voted on their knees.

While I am proud of my heritage, I am so ashamed in times like these of the color of my skin. As a white American, I know I am lumped into the same box as those who are trying to stir the country to radical hatred. Take it from a girl who has traveled the globe – the rest of the world views America as a Christian nation. While you and I both know that’s not the reality, it is very much the way we are perceived. The hatred, the headlines in the news and the scandals portrayed by Hollywood; these things have defined who we are to the rest of the world and the bad name we have made for ourselves is getting worse by the day.

White people of faith, the time for our silence if over. The expiration date on this silence is so ancient the toxic effects will kill us if we continue to sip from it. Have we forgotten that if one part of our body suffers, our whole body suffers?

The events in Charlottesville have crushed all of us because they have crushed a precious part of us. Our refusal personally and as a community to speak out against hate is a silent endorsement of the deeds done.

Even if we live in a white rural community that feels peaceful,  we cannot assume these things do not affect us. There is someone near us who is shaking in fear, old scars ripped wide open while our pastors speak from their pulpits as if nothing has happened and the blood of the One we say we follow, lies fresh on the sidewalk. We speed down the road in a rush to get to the next place without fear of being pulled over.  We dig in our purses for our phone as we enter a store, never thinking that if our skin were a different color we would be profiled and either followed the entire time or questioned. We feel only comfort, not fear when we pull on a hoodie to ward off the evening chill. We do so many things every day that many in our country can never do without fear of what will happen if they do.

It is time for us to speak up, speak out, and speak to. And I’m not talking about social media, though that has its place. In our safe white circles, we must speak up. Love is not silent, it is not safe. Find the oppressed in your area and speak to them, welcoming gently. And then listen. Have the heart to seek out the strangers and sit with them until they become your friends, your family. If we already have these friends, we could ask them how the events of the weekend in Charlottesville are affecting them. Ask them if they feel safe. Ask them what we can do. If they feel pain, we would be foolish to tell them that our lives matter too. This is not our moment. This is not the kind of speaking out that shushes people or assumes that we have the answers. It is a speaking out that listens…and learns.

If we do not speak, we are in danger of becoming part of the monster of hatred consuming and dividing this beautiful land…a body much different than the one that we claim to be a part of.

We must speak.

Lives depend on it.

 

Waking Up to Painful Realities

 

A heaviness fills me. I struggle to keep my mind on the orders I’m filling but the labels blur as the tears of my heart pool in the corners of a soul that feels so old and tired.

Last night I finished reading the story of a young Jewish girl’s experience of growing up in the ghettos of Germany in World War II, before being put on the train for Auschwitz. Tears streaming down my face I thought, “Yup, it’s what they say. The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

Earlier in the day I had watched  a short film of the journey of a young Syrian woman and her escape from Syria to Austria. From bombed out shells of buildings that once housed colorful vibrant communities, through raging rivers, and on to razor topped fences at unwelcome borders, she showed such courage and strength. What got me the most though, was not the plight of the refugees, as horrible as it still is for so many. No, what really broke me was the hate I saw pouring out in the comments afterwards. It was a raw and unfiltered hate, coming from mostly white people of privilege.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Facebook lately, trying to really hear the hearts of people who have had different experiences from mine. Some examples are the stories of four young people and their first experiences with racism. My son has been bullied and we’ve had some tough conversations but it pales in comparison to conversations the parents of  these kids have had to have with their children.

What drives this hate? I’m not a psychologist but I would venture a guess that there is fear involved. What are we, as white people, so afraid of that, generation after generation, we have pushed down those who are different from us? Why are we so exclusive? Why this frenzy to protect our freedom and way of life at all costs?  I must have missed that verse in Scripture somewhere. I always thought it said if you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life you will find it.

We are guests in a land of plenty. Does it really hurt us if someone else gets free health care coverage that is literally saving their life, while we pay a bit more for ours? Or does it ruin us if we’re turned down by a certain college while someone else of a different background gets in because of civil rights laws created to address past injustices? Does it matter if a video showing the trek of one refugee might possibly be fabricated, as some have suggested,  when either way it shows us the reality of life for so many right now? Do we really need to arm ourselves with more weapons to preserve our place in a land that was never ours to begin with? What is this clamor I hear? What is this hate? I don’t recognize my country any more, or maybe I am  finally seeing it for what it really is.

This waking up is painful, I cannot hold it inside or it will consume me. If I were an artist, I would paint a picture of what I see but it would hurt too much to look at and only the most sadistic person would buy it. But I’m not an artist so I weave my words together, hoping that my waking up can help others to wake up. It is in the waking that we remember we are alive. A people awake and alive can lament and heal and only then can we begin to bring healing to those we have injured.