Two days ago I woke up to a wall of fury and sadness after the killing of Alton Sterling. Yesterday, I woke to see my feed spattered red with the blood of Philando Castile. And today I wake to 11 shot cops—five dead so far. There is a war in Babylon.
I did something I don’t usually do. I watched the videos. They’re bad. Don’t watch them. But maybe do watch them. Because these are humans, the same as us. And because once you’re disturbed, you’re beginning to see correctly. But we can’t be properly disturbed anymore because it’s all so customary.
Nothing I say or can say is new. The things people post and repost now are real and powerful, but they are not new. We cannot congratulate ourselves for speaking up, for feeling something, because it’s only our duty. We know our duty, because it’s not new.
The script is on loop.
If I waited until tomorrow to post this, there’d probably be another name or another crime to add to the list. There’s no point in waiting. Each day has enough concerns of its own.
Black Lives Matter. Propaganda warriors. Gun control. Social justice. Blue blood. White guilt. Racism. Media manners. Mugshots. Not one more. Jim Crow. Protect and Serve. Hashtag activism. Darkness cannot drive out darkness.
The slogans are endless. And they don’t all align because we won’t let them.
My black friends write about their pain and their fear. My cop friends and their wives write about their pain and their fear. Everyone else writes their feelings and their reasons. That’s all this is. Feelings. Two unbloodied cents in the coffer of collective outrage.
Everyone wants to live. But a lot more of the men will die before the end. Because we are desensitized. Because we are addicted to our own grief to the point that it hardly feels like grief anymore. Because we live in an era of a new civil struggle, of massive and immediate brutal, graphic, rapid-fire consumption. We live in the age of Trumpian rhetoric and of terror—and the fear of terror.
There’s a new genre of media out there. It’s the genre of black men dying. And it’s being livestreamed. Real. Bloody. Death. There’s a new category of retribution—sniping police officers who are trying their best to keep the peace when the peace doesn’t want to be kept. When every creak in pavement and every side glance and every hidden thing whispers of violence and death.
But it’s really not new. It’s just reinvented for a generation frenzied by emotional overload, by violent super-realities, by life imitating all the art of death.
Everyone is suspect. Everyone is guilty. And as long as that’s the case, we’ve already lost.
I think people feel helpless. What can anyone do except speak out? What can black boys and girls do except protest and wonder if they should stay inside at night? What can little old white ladies in their mostly-homogenous neighborhoods do except pray and not be afraid?
I suppose they could do these things together. That’d be a start. Maybe.
There are, of course, other things. Activism—not just the online kind. Writing letters. Making calls. Marching and listening, praying and giving, serving and empathizing. Have those awkward, don’t-know-what-say conversations about race. Have those uncomfortable, don’t-know-what-to-say conversations about justice. Saying “Never again” is great—rhetoric is the first step toward action—but don’t let our reputations be better than our deeds. Don’t do nothing.
Most of all, don’t be afraid. Easy for me to say, true. I don’t mean don’t be afraid of this national crisis—it’s a monster—even though we should be Fear Not People. I mean don’t be afraid of each other. Because then we’ll pick up more guns and spill more blood.
President Obama was speaking on the real when he talked about the despicable things happening up and down our country. The same as he was being real when he said, “When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter.”
The infighting needs to stop. The tribalism needs to end. The war must die from the blossoms of peace.
But everyone knows this. Nearly everyone wants this. So why are we going to see another man—black, blue—human—dead on the street tomorrow?
Because we are afraid? Maybe. Because we are angry? Maybe that, too. Because of the system? Probably.
But there are forces more powerful than fear and anger and systems. Solidarity. Peace. Forgiveness. God.
There are forces that can overcome the impossible. Run to them.
For only there will we find rest.