Monthly Archives: May 2020
Parker J. Palmer
“I CAN’T BREATHE.” Those words give voice to the terror that has haunted black Americans since the founding of this country. They can also serve as a tragic tag for a political-cultural era in which life has been choked out of so many and so much.
“I can’t breathe” were the dying words of a black man named George Floyd, as a police officer kept a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, while Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground. They are words that thousands of lynching victims in this country might have said as they died, words that freedom-seekers now living in limbo south of our border could say as they watch their dreams and sometimes their children die. All of this is rooted in the racism that American “leaders” have long exploited as a path to power, to which too many whites have given silent assent. “I can’t breathe” might have been the dying words of the 100,000 + American victims of COVID-19 just before they were intubated, deaths that have hit communities of color the hardest. Fewer would have died if our “leaders” valued science above ideology, human life above money and power, and the public interest above their own. Their knees were pressed down on those throats.
“I can’t breath” represents a challenge to the moral credentials of white people—if we fail to speak and act against the racist forces that help fuel #45’s war on democracy. Some of us have been “gasping for breath” since the advance man for birtherism ran for president, polluting the air we breathe with his racism and his taste for fascism. (I do not use the “F-word” lightly, but with the gravity of a student of history. For evidence, see https://tinyurl.com/y5l8hnsj, a piece I wrote for On Being eight months before the 2016 election.)
In the wake of a horrifying week in America, what can we do? If you or I walked down the street and heard a stranger say, “I can’t breathe,” we’d dial 911. We’d stay with the stranger until help arrived and do anything we could, the Heimlich maneuver, or CPR, or a hand to hold. We would NOT walk on by as if nothing were happening. Please, let’s not walk by now. And let’s not indulge the self-serving delusion that there’s nothing we can do. For example…
Alone or with your friends, study articles like “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” at https://tinyurl.com/y7ou7rkd, and act on one or more of the suggestions there.
Use Facebook and other social media to let folks in your network know where you stand. What’s worse, being “un-friended” or failing to take a clear stand on the morally imperative issues of our time?
Speak to family and friends who support racist words and actions, however indirectly. Tell them that you find it hard to breathe in that space. Then take a deep breath, and tell them what you value. Speak the truth with love, but speak the truth.
If you belong to a faith community whose leaders have ignored or even supported the inhumanity so evident in our politics right now, speak up. Tell them that you need to hear muscular love, truth, and justice preached and practiced, not soothing piosity or faithless complicity.
When November arrives, vote for candidates who offer something better than the tragedy we’re living right now, no matter your marginal reservations. Encourage others to do the same. “When you govern with lies, the ballots will fly. Lead without soul, and we’ll defeat you at the polls.”
There’s much we can do. It starts with listening to all who are crying, “I can’t breathe.” Souls—theirs, ours, and and our country’s—depend on us hearing and responding in every way we can.
Christianity is about loving people more than loving to be right.
Christianity is about forgiveness for every one.
Christianity is about experiencing the love of God and passing it on.
Christianity is about learning how to love from the life and death of a Jew named Jesus.
Christianity is about the awesome God of the Universe being within each of us.
Christianity is about realizing that we are all imperfect earthen vessels, each unique, but all slightly cracked, so though we are filled with the Spirit of God, we leak.
Christianity is about knowing Jesus is Risen and is a well where we can go to refill.
Christianity is about realizing that the Spirit of God works in diverse ways in different people: like a geyser, like a gentle bubbling brook, or a silent underground river.
Christianity is about valuing the fruit of the Spirit- peace, joy, love – in whatever wrapping or label it comes.
Christianity is about translating the words “born again” into experiencing the unlimited love of God with both our mind and heart and being freed to respond “YES” to God even when the going gets rough.
Christianity is about Jesus showing us that this life is not all there is.
These are summed up in First Corinthians, Chapter 13.
In sorting and organizing old writings I came across this one that seems to speak to our current situation.
I’ve always struggled with unrealistic expectations and the depression that follows when I’m forced to face the realities of our human imperfections (including mine) and a seemingly hopelessly imperfect world.
One of my many disillusionments has been how imperceptible are the differences even the greatest of us makes. For every plague we cure, another one is born. From every war we win, the seeds of the next are sown. For every race or nation emancipated, we project our inner evil on another one. For every answer we discover, a new question arises.
I cling to the hope, that in the overall picture of eons of evolution, that there is progress imperceptible to us in humanity’s short history, but recognizable to God.
Sometimes in the crucible of my own struggle to become the person God created me to be, no matter how humiliatingly limited that potential may be, I get a…
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I think it was David Hume that said that there’s no way we can be sure of cause and effect. Because there are so many variables and more that we can’t even imagine yet, statistical probability is what we have to go by. With our current pandemic , we aren’t really positive when it began or where. In comparing it’s virulence in different countries, there are so many elements that could possibly effect the spread it’s probably too early to get a valid probability on any.
Here are just a few:
1. geographical size of country 2 size of population 3. density of population 4. age demographics 5. climate 6. existence of inherited health issues in different populations 7. usual habits of hygiene 8. traditions of social greeting 9. variations in degree of women’s public activities 10. elements of protective clothing because of religion, tradition, or climate. 11. availability of clean water, clean air, clean streets. 12. national normal level of acceptance of governmental control 13. amount of tribal, racial, immigrant, gender, generational interactions 14. degree of divergence in standard of living, 15. accessibility of normal healthcare. 16. emergency response preparedness 17. health care facilities, personnel, and equipment 18. plans in place for pandemics. 19. effective cooperation between local governments and international governments. 20. levels of greed vs humanitarianism 21. percentage of population that will not be able to recover economically from quarantine. 22. understanding and adaptability to using increased hygiene by those in low level jobs that are suddenly essential and dangerous. 23. Normal amount of people living under one roof. 24. Amount of international and intercontinental travel among significant percentages of populations.
I have only traveled in America and Europe, but there are obvious differences both between sections within any country and between countries. And from family and friends whose travel extends far beyond those cultural borders, I know the differences are huge even in our day of the internet.
So whatever news or governmental sources you follow, take them with a grain of salt. It’s simply too early to project blame or even recognize all the causes of differences. Also, realize that those who built companies now going bankrupt, those who have lost their livelihood and see no silver lining ahead, those whose family members died alone, those who either experience or are caregivers of those having broken hearts from being cut off from their loved ones and sometimes not knowing for days whether they are still alive are not going to be able to easily accept these new and terrible realities.
This is truly a world war against a mutual enemy without anyone being neutral. And there are no winners, only survivors who will need each other to rebuild our society together.