Where do I start? Another day, another shooting. This one, in Baton Rouge, is against police again, so the rhetoric will be predictable. “Blue Lives Matter”. “Black Lives Matter” incites violence. The motives were assigned before the smoke cleared. I pray for the families of those who lost loved ones, both those in uniform and civilians. I pray that police can do their jobs, an admittedly very difficult job, without being victimized by violence and without victimizing those they have sworn to serve. We’ve created a an ugly pattern for ourselves and it won’t stop without some serious soul searching about our culture and its systems.
A great place for that to happen could potentially be at the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland. I have little hope for that. This week, unless there is some major curveball thrown, the party of Lincoln will nominate someone for this nation’s highest office who is so unpopular that former presidents of his same party refuse to be seen with him or to endorse him. A man so unpopular within his party that the only speakers he could find are those on the fringes and C-list actors. A man who has a 0% percent approval rating in many major cities amongst African Americans. A man who has stoked the fears of this nation and given voiced to the most hate-filled among us. No… I’m expecting a circus this week and not much in the way of serious reflection.
I do pray though. Ohio is an open carry state. Police are attempting as we speak to get the open carry laws overturned for the week. Can you see the irony? The party that fights for open carry wants it suspended when their own party convention is in town? Guns are fine for us and ours, is what they are basically saying. This is what is rolling into Cleveland this week, a party so white that they don’t even have the wherewithal to hire a few token interns. A party that wants to “take America back”… for white people. I pray. I pray that I am surprised. I pray that something of substance comes out of this gathering because I take the Teacher’s instruction to “pray for your enemies” to heart and many of the people who will be at that convention have declared war on me. I pray for the newly installed police officers brought in to protect the event. I pray that any protests that happen will be peaceful. I pray that somehow bridges might be built, if not within the arena, then out on the streets.
In the midst of the present grief and the grief that seems to be building, is the grief of the not very recent past. I was struck by these two pictures:
The funerals of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile respectively gave us these images. A University of Virginia study that has made the rounds recently suggests that white doctors often prescribe less pain medication to black patients under the false assumption that black people feel less pain. I wonder if there is an inherent belief in our culture that black people feel less emotional pain as well. I can’t look at the picture of Alton Sterling’s son and not have my heart break wide open. And even the strength and defiance demonstrated by Castile’s pallbearers is a response to the deep pain of being entrenched in a system that does not value our lives.
I pray. I pray for Cameron Sterling and for all of Alton Sterling’s family and friends. I pray for the friends and family of Philando Castile. And Eric Garner. And Rekia Boyd. And Sandra Bland. And Freddie Gray. And on, and on, and on… I pray that their deaths can be catalysts for change. I pray that healing can take place, healing that works towards justice and not for vengeance. I pray that we don’t continue to add names to this list with such regularity.
The idea of sending thoughts and prayers has been trivialized greatly as of late. I totally get that and I have done some of the trivializing myself. Still, feeling so hopeless and so far from any kind of real solutions, I have to pray. I pray for strength to continue through uncertain times. I pray for peace within myself to not be shaken by what I see around me. I pray for those with whom I disagree on what the solutions to these big issues might be. Again, I do that because the Teacher said I must. But maybe most importantly, I pray for the strength to do more than pray. I pray for the strength to act, to speak out, to create peace in my little corner of the world and to share hope in my circles of influence. I pray because it is the beginning of the work, not an end unto itself. I pray because the fight is hard and long and I can’t do it on my own.
Won’t you pray with me?