Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Jesus enters his people’s capital city, surrounded by crowds of people shouting “Save us!”. My guess is some significant percentage of preachers this Sunday drew parallels between this scene and the march that happened on Saturday. My wife and many of my friends were a part of the crowd that descended upon D.C. Many other friends and associates took place in marches in other parts of the country. The message of the marches was clear; after decades of intransigence on the issue of gun control, maybe it takes the presence and voices of the nation’s young people to finally move the needle on this epidemic.
While many of my friends participated in marches, there was another subsection of my world asking “where was this crowd when the movement for black lives needed them?” The white and light-skinned faces of the Parkland students seem to have captured America’s attention in a way that seems to carry more weight than the many black faces that have appeared on our screens (?) over the last few years. While I don’t think anyone begrudges the Parkland students, who have by and large said all the right things in terms of giving credit to Black Lives Matter activists and the silencing of their classmates of color, it is endemic of a pattern of behavior in American public life. Nothing is really a problem until it is a problem for white people.
But, hey, why let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right?
Today it was announced that officers involved in Alton Sterling’s death will not be charged. The two white officers who gunned down Sterling claim that he was properly warned and also likely intoxicated. This is, of course, just days after Stephon Clark was gunned down in his own backyard in Sacramento. We know that police are capable of taking down a shooting suspect without killing them. Every recent mass shooting by a white man has proven this.
But school shootings and police shootings are different, right?
Yes! One is a citizen using violence against another citizen, the other is the state using violence against its citizens. School shootings are heinous and we have every right to demand that weapons of war be made inaccessible to the general population. But does the fact that the shooter has a badge mitigate the damage done to families and communities? Are youth in Baltimore and Ferguson less traumatized than youth in Parkland or Sandy Hook? Did the seventeen kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have more right to exist than Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice?
I have all the respect in the world for the young people who marched across this country and for the adults who supported them. I hope that something positive comes from it. But the fact of the matter is that we have a fundamental issues of values in this country that gives additional worth to some people while denying worth to others. If it is morally reprehensible for citizens to gun each other down than it should be even more so for those who are sworn to serve and to protect the citizenry to violate that oath in the name of law and order.
At the end of the day, it was the state that executed Jesus. Not some lone “crazy” person. Not a guy experiencing economic anxiety. Not some misunderstood loner. It was the state that the people cried to be saved from, a state that believed in maintaining order through shows of violence. Jesus marches into the city showing that there can be another way. And that way is the only thing that can save us.