Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson and beyond

The events around Ferguson should cause us to pause and ponder deeply the cultures within our nation that work to wound others. As those not in the courtroom, we do not know all of the information that the Grand Jury pondered, and thus ‘why’ around their decision remains illusive. But there are things we do know. We live in a violent, racist society that takes a deadly toll on all of us. The decision in Ferguson stirs us on many levels and the decision’s tentacles reach far beyond the decision they reached. For those who deeply and personally feel the grief of Michael Brown’s death and his absence in their life, for them those deep wounds are reopened in a painful way. For those who see Michael Brown’s death as a larger social crisis that lives within every city and town in our nation, a death perpetuated by our ongoing racist culture, their anger is refueled, and justly so. With no indictment I imagine, their hopes for a reprieve go unfulfilled once again, and that the reality is, that within our nation there is a disproportionate number of deaths among young African American men, and thus, justice continues to seem denied. This decision reinforces the pain of the many, who are wounded each day by this reality, and their cries of lamentations rise, fueled by anger at a social system that is undeniably stacked toward the privileged. Another tentacle that adds to the tragic circumstances is the inability of our culture to seriously address our capacity to consume and manufacture weapons. We are an armed society and just as sadly, we are a fearful society. At every turn we are instructed to fear the other. Fear is particularly pronounced among the privileged, for they are fearful of the changing world in which they live, and thus, try to enact policies of protectionism. Fear armed with weapons is a deadly combination. It is my deepest prayer that the events, disappointment, anger, and grief can push us toward a plan of reconciliation, addressing the deep challenges of our national life.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday's ponderings

I heard a troubling program on NPR this morning about Alaskans and their attitude toward global warming. Since they are on the front edge of the receiving end of global warming they cannot ignore its immediate impact with the permafrost melting and ice getting thinner. But the program’s conclusion was that Alaskans are more focused on how they can cope with the day- to-day reality of global warming rather than addressing the causes. The image that comes to mind for me in that strategy is when someone is bailing water out of a sinking boat, but does not fix the hole in the bottom of the boat. On Tuesday, while I understand these are non-binding referendum, the voters of Illinois demonstrated that they wanted legislators to address some root causes of poverty, and some of the ongoing root causes of our social fraying. Votes overwhelmingly said yes to: raising the minimum wage, women’s health and birth control, funding mental health services, universal background checks, passing laws that protect voters’ rights. Of course the challenge of these votes is their legislative implementation. But, with these votes legislators were urged to move forward on bills to address these issues. These votes are encouraging and help direct the focus away from our just coping, toward addressing root causes of disenfranchisement for so many people in our state.