The last couple of weeks have been a trial, and our collective spirits have taken a beating. Old wars, new threats, broken trust, and shattered dreams have liberally littered our news feeds. It’s as if the world has shifted on its axis, and we’re all struggling to find our footing.
What’s particularly troubled me is the overwhelming loss of life. Sometimes I have to stop watching the news, just so I can maintain some faith in humanity. What is wrong with us that we are killing each other, and ourselves, with such regularity? It’s caused me to question, what is the value of a human life?
We seem to be so cavalier in our assessment of who is to live, and who will die. We even vilify those who tragically choose to take their own lives – labeling them as cowards. But I wonder, who among us are the real cowards? Are we not all now operating from a spirit of fear?
To watch a small American town disintegrate into a veritable war zone is utterly sickening. We could waste time debating how we got to this place, but truthfully, we all know. Since African souls were brought to America’s shores in chains, held in bondage and then set free but without rights to operate as full citizens, there has been a distrust between black and white America, and those wounds have yet to fully heal.
But sadly, it’s not just America. Iraqi families trapped on a mountaintop, surrounded by other Iraqis who would kill them for their religious beliefs. Israel and Palestine at war for decades, with no peace in sight. Boko Haram, kidnapping more Nigerians, this time our boys and men. Everyone, afraid of someone, and then foolishly thinking they are in control because they have a gun.
What is the solution to this overwhelming devaluing of a human life? I’ve been thinking for days about what to say about all of the turmoil that threatens to overwhelm us, but I too have run out of words. Especially for our young black men, who have passionately expressed feelings of being hunted down, expendable.
My heart aches as I watch a generation of young people become angry, and frustrated over circumstances that feel largely out of their control. I feel sad too, for White Americans, who want to move forward, who are good people with kind hearts, but are frustrated because we can’t “let it go”, “wait for all the facts”, or “stay out of trouble”. Where is our middle ground?
In the midst of the frustration and sadness there are two quotes that keep playing over and over in my mind. They are not a solution, but perhaps together they can give us a sense of how to find our way forward.
The first is from Dr. Maya Angelou:
While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creations.
This is what fear robs us of – the capacity to see ourselves, and each other, as beautiful and valuable creations of God. Because if we did, the very thought of killing would crush our spirit. The notion of snuffing out life would be inconceivable if we truly understood our connection to the Divine.
But sadly, we don’t. Instead we are surrounded by the darkness, struggling not to thrive, but to merely be allowed the opportunity to survive. How do we move forward in a world where other people don’t value our lives?
Ugh! Here is where it gets tough. Because, like many of you, I’m upset over the injustice of who decides who lives and dies. I look at what happens in places like Ferguson, and I don’t want to wait for the facts. I just want to be mad.
Mad because another black boy has been gunned down in the streets. Mad because another person made a catastrophic decision in “fear for his life”. Mad because he probably really was afraid…and because, well maybe he had a reason to be afraid. And most of all, mad because I’m writing this trying to judge who was right and wrong while the bottom line is a child is dead.
I keep searching and searching for our way forward, out of this perpetual cycle of fear, anger, and retribution, disguised as justice. The only thought that continues to rise to the surface is a second quote, this one from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
I believe this must be our starting place – a commitment from all of us to value every human life, and to commune together with a spirit of love. Indeed, it is the only place we can begin, because any other change would be like putting a broken arm in a sling – it can temporarily alleviate the pain but until it is set properly it will never fully heal.
We’re all looking around trying to figure out who can restore calm, move us forward, and help us collectively heal. Well my friends, I think it’s you. It’s you, me, and everyone else who will be brave enough to not operate out of fear. To let love prevail, and to see every human being – as a human being, worthy of the same dignity, respect and benefit of the doubt we want for our selves.
As I write this it sounds so trite, too simple to address the complexities that drive our madness. We’re all looking for systemic change, something that forces “fairness” on a more broad level. But that never really works, because until people change, nothing else ever does.
Our battle is not with each other, but against the fears that lead us into darkness. And the only way to drive out the darkness is to allow the light, within all of us, to shine through.
The question is, who among us will be brave enough to begin? ❤