We Are Hurting Today

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My kids are down the street, playing with a gang of other kids from the neighborhood. By “gang” I mean a group, a gaggle, a tribe, an assortment. A ragtag, sweaty-faced, bare-foot, sticky-handed, scraped kneed, muddy shorted handful of high-spirited, fun-loving, occasionally naughty, healthy, happy kids. In this group of kids, ranging in age from approximately four to ten, there are both boys and girls. And there are at least three distinct races represented, perhaps four, and surely more than that in the diverse backgrounds of their respective families. They are playing, pretending, hosting a lemonade stand, driving around in a kid-size jeep, drawing with sidewalk chalk, tossing water balloons, running through the hose, climbing trees, kicking balls. In other words, being kids. I love and envy their energy, their wonder, their imaginations, and their unquestioning acceptance of each other.

I wish the world could always be like this. I wish their worlds could always be like this. I am not a political person. I am not a joiner or a follower or a hanger-on. I don’t often rally to causes or post rants online or raise my voice in a crowded room to expound on my world views. That’s not me. But what has been happening in our country lately shocks me. It scares me. It doesn’t bode well for the future. And I feel moved to speak.

Remember on September 11, when we were attacked by outsiders who hated us with more venom than we could comprehend? When we lauded, appreciated, and idolized our law enforcement personnel and other first responders? On that day, and in the immediate aftermath, there was no black and white, no gay or straight, no male or female, no Republican or Democrat. There were only those who were injured, frightened, dying, and those who came running, heedless of the risk, to help. Our country has suffered from the divisions that form along racial lines from its very beginnings. We always hope, always try to believe, that these divisions exist only in the past. But one need only turn on the news to know they continue to this day. For our own peace of mind, for our own peaceful coexistence, for the sake of our children and our children’s children, these lines must be eradicated. I don’t know how and I don’t have the answers. I can’t see how it all ends. I know only that it must end, or we must end.

Abraham Lincoln, speaking about danger to our country, said, “if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us, it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we ourselves must be its author, and its finisher.”

It has sprung up among us, and it is up to us to quash it. We must save ourselves. Instead we refuse to condemn hate speech against Muslims and other minorities, we rail against terrorist organizations, we argue the merits of black lives versus blue lives versus all lives, we fight over guns and access to public restrooms and equal protection under the law for all citizens and nothing changes. The danger is already here. The destruction is coming from within.

My kids are down the street, playing with a gang of other kids from the neighborhood. In a town where “gang” doesn’t mean what it means in countless other places. They don’t know what happened in Minnesota or Louisiana or Texas. They couldn’t understand it if they did. That’s the world I want to live in: a world where these things don’t happen, a world where such occurrences are not only impossible, but inconceivable. I do hope and pray that it isn’t too late. May God bless and protect us all, regardless of our differences and especially because of what we have in common. Amen.

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