I wasn’t sure yesterday that I would be able to write anything ever again in the face of all the devastation around us (see yesterday’s post). Of course we have seen devastation before. I just think of all the fires and the slow oozing of volcanic lava last year on the island of Hawai’i, and the floods and/or drought across the United States. These are natural disasters; we survive them and rebuild. What is happening now in our country, however, is of human origin that is not happening because of one event. It is, at its core, a result of prejudice and distrust leading all the way to hatred that has once more erupted into violence. And it has happened before. But this time it seems different.
The violence that has spread across the country (not unlike the fires of last year) goes deeper than the catalyst: the death of one man caused by another. Brutal as it was in itself, George Floyd’s death was also a symbol, the last straw in a long line of events that speak of racial hatred, white privilege and the failure of understanding of what freedom means in our democracy. Freedom is linked to disciplined living, not to license to do whatever one wills. We have clearly failed to comprehend the depth of our responsibility to others when we ignore the strictures of self quarantine in the present pandemic and obedience to curfew in the face of the violent protests.
It seems that we have come to a crossroad. If we fail to face the crisis of the present moment, it seems clear that we will have failed far into the future. It will take a mighty effort to even begin to face all the issues that we must confront: racism, police brutality, personal responsibility as citizens and lack of love – which is at the heart of all other issues. To be fair, there have been extraordinary acts of kindness and care during the pandemic that underlies much of the anxiety in the country and even during the violence that has followed over the past week. But we will have to dig deeper for the courage we need to face ourselves and one another at this juncture.
I said at the beginning of this post that I wasn’t sure I could write any more after yesterday. I have truly been heartbroken and feeling powerless over the past week – as I believe most of us have been. What has motivated me this morning is my “go to” practice: the daily Scripture readings. Today it was Psalm 90, especially the refrain for liturgy: In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge… As I read that phrase and what followed, the words of a modern hymn by Janet Sullivan Whitaker kept repeating in my mind. When I found the song on the internet and let myself feel the words and music, I was reminded of where my strength comes from…in every age. Here are the words:
Long before the mountains came to be and the land and sea and stars of the night, through the endless seasons of all time, you have always been. You will always be…In every age, O God, you have been our refuge. In every age, O God, you have been our hope…
May you have the strength today for whatever you are called to be or do for the world. May it be the same for all of us.