I am sitting at my desk this morning, surrounded by work that absolutely must get done, and I am crying; just crying. They are tears of sadness, exhaustion, stress, frustration, outrage: the list of emotions could go on and on. While there are several factors contributing to this emotional abyss I find myself in, events of the last few days have ultimately put me here.
First and foremost, I am responding to what everyone else is responding to: the racist remarks of the president about the countries of
Africa and El Salvador.
Don’t expect me to put asterisks in the place of the expletive he used. If he
can say it, so can I. The president referred to the people who come here from
these “shithole” countries. As one person wrote on a post on social media, it
isn’t the expletive that is the most upsetting. Quite frankly other presidents
have used language far worse. It is the blatant, raw, unfiltered racism that
motivated his remarks. Please do not try and excuse what he said as anything
else; I no longer have the stomach for excuses. I no longer have the patience
for denials of the racism, sexism and meanness of mind and heart that have been
obvious all along.
However, this still does not fully explain my tears. I am angry, true, but it is more than that. In this season of Epiphany, I had an epiphany as I struggled to understand my response. I am crying because I am grieving. I am grieving. Not only am I mourning the brokenness of our world and of the people who dwell in it – including my own – I am mourning that even as the president made these despicable remarks, a hospital patient in Baltimore, who was also homeless, was taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair by security guards, then left on the sidewalk. She was dressed only in a hospital gown and it is freezing cold in
This was done at night, as though somehow that would provide cover for this
inexcusable inhumanity. This woman was not so much discharged as she was
disposed of. Is this where we are? Really? Is this what we have come to? Tell me,
what actually qualifies as a shithole? This kind of action, which is not as
unusual as I would like to believe, seems to fit the criteria of a country that
has gone down a moral sewer.
So I guess I am grieving over incidents like the one I described. I guess I am mourning the president and his hate. I suppose I am in grief for the people who support him, and continue to rally around his narcissistic and abhorrent filth; especially those who claim the same faith that I do. But I am also mourning for him and them. I am mourning for what must be their narrow, ignorant, one-dimensional lives.
I realize that we all have the capacity for racism, bigotry and hatred within us. I know that it lies in wait within me, within my own heart and mind. But I fight it fiercely. Not because I am so morally superior, but because I know the fullness and lush beauty and joy my life has been blessed with through my encounters, my friendships and my experiences with so many diverse, wonderful, beautiful people. I have been pushed and stretched and re-created by every person I have met who does not look like me, who does not think like I do, who does not see the world through my particular lens. Yes, that even includes the people who embody racism and bigotry. I cannot claim that my experiences with them have added beauty to my life, but they have stretched and pushed me. Stretching and pushing may be painful, but it is necessary.
So I am grieving, for them, for our country, for this beautiful and broken world. However, truth-be-told, I am also crying out of my own sense of helplessness and despair. I am crying at my lack of courage when it comes to speaking up and out. I guess I am feeling sorry for myself, which does not help anyone. I am disgusted by the president and his cronies, but I also feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for those who agree with and further his bigotry. But ignorance is not an excuse, and they don’t get a free pass. A dear friend shared this quote,
“It will never be enough to not be racist in your heart. YOU have to be anti-racist in every word, thought and deed.”
It seems to me that mourning is not enough. Mourning has to lead to action. Grief must give way to a fiery, unrelenting thirst for justice and for righteousness. To love as I believe my faith calls me to love is not just a warm, fuzzy, let’s buy the world a Coke emotion. It is living out the belief that every creature has value and worth, not for what they do, what they look like or where they come from, but just because they are. For the sake of this of love, I will constantly root out the racism that lives in me, and I will call it out in others. Sometimes I’m gonna cry, but then I’m going to get back up and love again. In the words of Dr. King,
“Darkness can’t drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can’t drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Only love can do that.