The pain of our history still haunts us today.
We have not healed from manifest destiny, from slavery, from the fight during the civil rights movement. We are still a deeply injured nation. A people who cannot embrace the enemy but rather looks for an enemy at every turn.
There are those of us who live in gated communities with security guards and yet we still own an arsenal of weapons “just in case” someone were to break into our home. We carry a pistol in case someone were to try and rob us. We watch our favorite news source looking for what treacherous thing our enemy did today. We cheer when the enemy falls, and we rage if one of our own falls.
All the while the media and the government rake in the cash we throw in their direction for letting us know that weare in the right, and they are in the wrong. Us and them, good guys and bad guys, Republican and Democrat, on and on it goes.
You may say that I am doing the same thing by accusing the government and media of being complicit in this side choosing. I am not. I do not believe Obama or Bush or Rick Perry or Glenn Beck or Bill Maher are the bad guys. The system is what is bad, and we the people have created this system.
This is not a new thing. As soon as we (Caucasians) arrived on American shores we discovered “bad guys.” We discovered natives who did not look like us, talk like us, live like us or worship like us. So we took their land, and we killed an awful lot of them. We boldly proclaimed that it was our destiny to take over this giant mass of land now known as the United States of America, and the natives were just casualties of war whom we brushed to the side as we took what we believed God had given to us. I believe God’s heart broke to see His name attached to such evil.
Next came slavery. Long before we were a nation, we were ripping Africans from their home and bringing them to America to serve as our property. We told them they were something less than human. We preached, yes preached, that they were somehow beneath those of us with lighter skin. Even today the topic of slavery is such a touchy subject because we do not like to gaze into the ugliness of what it actually was.
And then England became our bad guy. We wanted freedom, and they stood in our way. We violently cast them out of ourland, and independence became the number one value woven into our society. When our ancestors first arrived here, they had no choice but to rely on one another and, at times, even the enemy natives. However, now we understood this land, so our move away from each other became a priority.
Americans are independent! We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we overcome adversity, we rise, we conquer, and we survive! We say things like, “God helps those who help themselves,” which is not in the Bible by the way. We honor the warrior, and we call those who would dare to not pick up their arms and choose a side cowards. But are they?
Finally we as a nation realized that owning people as property was wrong, either that or we realized it was a dying institution, so we knew we had no choice but to abandon it. I am thoroughly unconvinced that the civil war was about slavery. But I suppose that is a different history lesson for a different day. The point for now is that we had this giant war where we slaughtered each other in cold blood. Brother against brother, father against son. One would hope that this war would have been enough for us to stop the side choosing and realize we needed to work together. It was not. The civil war still rages. Americans from the north still don’t see eye to eye with Americans from the south. We still think differently, and we still choose sides against one another all the time.
It was not long after the abolition of slavery before the fight became about what rights these former slaves would have. We could agree that they should not be considered property (to an extent), but we could not agree that they would have equal rights as us.
Once again we began choosing sides. It was in this time that a great proponent for peace showed up. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us how to dream. He showed us how to fight with love and peace as opposed to fists and guns. He was a voice crying out in the wilderness for unity and acceptance and an end to the violence our nation was founded in. And we killed him for it.
If you’ve read these previous paragraphs and think I am talking about white or black people when I say we then I think you have missed the point. When I say we, I mean Americans. Those of us who have pledged our allegiance to a red, white, and blue flag as children. We think we are independent, but we are more interdependent than ever. We need the usto create the them.
Now here we are again. Ferguson is nothing new. Remember Rodney King? Our nation is consistently at a boiling point, and occasionally something happens which causes it to boil over. One or both sides yell out “ENOUGH!” and begin attacking.
So I sit here grieved at the way we deal with these things. One side approves the show of force from the government, the other side approves the destruction of property performed by the less armed group. All I can think is: “Isn’t there a better way?”
God heal our land. Help us to get out of our stereotypical ways of thinking. All cops aren’t bad. All white people aren’t racist. All black people aren’t criminals. All criminals aren’t heartless. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a plot.
When will we learn to look into the eyes of the person across from us and see their humanity? When will we learn that violence will only bring about more violence? This stuff has been fleshed out in Ferguson, Missouri very obviously, but you can see it on Facebook as well. People are genuinely upset, ripping each other apart because they do not see this situation through the same lens.
We have to learn to take a step back and learn from the person representing the other side of the coin. If we don’t, we will destroy ourselves from the inside. Mark 3:25 says, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
We would do well to remember the words of Jesus and to begin coming together, listening to one another, and seeking healing from the deep, dark wounds of our past. Only with forgiveness can we find peace. Only with understanding can we find reconciliation. Only with love of our “enemy” can we find hope. Only with peace, reconciliation and hope can we find our way out of this long dark night and into the light of a new dawn.
I believe in you America. Against all odds, I have faith in you. I believe our capacity to love far exceeds our capacity for violence. That is saying a lot, but I believe it is true. Stand up, friends. Stand up, lay down your arms, and hug the person you were at odds with. It is the only way for us to grow.
Peace be with you my friends.