I have not been following the events in Charlottesville in real time. I knew that there were protests on Friday night, but I didn't know how terribly wrong the week-end was going. I knew that there were marches and countermarches yesterday, and I knew that the volatility meant that it could all go terribly wrong--but I was shocked to hear about deaths.
I am not one of those white folks who thinks that racism is a thing of the past. But I also understand that we all feel, most of us at least, that we have a tenuous grasp on safety and on being a valued part of society. I've talked to so many people in so many walks of life, and that sense of being abandoned by the larger society and the institutions that are supposed to protect us--that sense undergirds so much of what we say and do and feel. I understand that many acts of hate and repression are rooted in that sense of abandonment.
And of course, let me hasten to say, I do not excuse those actions regardless of who is doing them. We are adults, responsible for our actions. We can demonstrate peacefully. We can't hit each other, no matter how we feel. I would urge caution in the words that make up our chants. Words can be wounding, and those wounds can last much longer than bruises and broken bones.
The events of the week-end in Charlottesville went even further than I would have anticipated that they could go. Who drives a car into a gathering of people? It's a rhetorical question. At this time in our history, we've seen that plenty of people use vehicles as weapons.
I don't blame the current president and his administration, not exactly. I've been alive long enough, and I've read about other eras, so I know that this kind of hatred bubbles up this way periodically. I'd like to see more leadership from certain leaders, but at this point, I'm not surprised when it doesn't come.
I will take comfort from the leaders we might not have known previously. I found the pictures of clergy with linked arms--and the statements from church officials--to be tremendously inspiring. I am in awe of the UVa faculty and administration members who went to the Quad on Friday to make sure that their students were O.K.
I will hold onto my hope. I know that these widely televised events sometimes shock us out of our complacency and move us further along the road towards a time of justice. That is my prayer this morning.
Today I have a different set of songs in my head. My brain pulls lines from U2's War: "How long, how long must we sing this song?" It's a sentiment that weaves its way through much of the album. And of course, it comes from a much more ancient lament: Psalm 40. It's a good text for today with its promise that we can be lifted from our muck and mire and given a firm place to stand.