Is this the world you want?
You’re making it, every day you’re alive
—Switchfoot, “The World You Want”
These past few days have been heavy heavy heavy on my heart. I can’t stop thinking about Charlottesville. I can’t stop reading about it or listening about it on the news. I ache, and America aches.
I want to remember and let my sadness/frustration about this moment in time be known. The thickness of such things absolutely seeps into me. There is a heart in me that yearns to step off of this safe and privileged ground on which I’ve always lived and go touch and dwell in the suffering of those greatly and deeply affected by real racism, real prejudice, real fear.
I had a much needed conversation on the phone with my mom last night. Her gentle, quiet wisdom gave me a renewed sense of hope and direction toward meaning as I sat on the concrete beside my aunt’s pool, watching the Southern California pink sky turn to navy blue and reflect off the tiny ripples of water. I told her about my sadness and disgust and my deep desire to do something, but unsure exactly what to do that would mean anything. She reminded me that I can’t change the world. But, I can love one person today. I can go out of my way to start an uncomfortable conversation with someone or let someone know they are needed and significant. I can call out and recognize the subtle forms of racism I see on a daily basis, whether that’s pointing out a slur or listening to another’s viewpoint with understanding and sympathy. As I sat there on the phone under the now-dark sky, I realized again what my calling is and has always been: to love, wholly and vulnerably. I don’t need to change the world, and I can’t all by myself. But I can open myself honestly and freely. I can listen to others without needing to interject or always give advice. I can write about it if I must. Action is this: beginning the hard task of loving and placing others before ourselves. This is difficult work that many of us are too afraid to do because it takes courage. Courage and vulnerability. That is how we will reject and eradicate these hate groups. I refuse to hate the haters. I will not become one of them. Hatred will never heal our nation’s wounds.
Listen to the movements of your heart and the moments when you are sad, uncomfortable, frustrated, or exhausted. This is the voice of your inner self, the Holy Spirit, urging you to do something. If you feel these things, remaining silent is not an option. Silence is acceptance. Let your voice be heard. Let your actions sing and speak of a love that is greater than yourself, the same love that makes your heart twist in sadness for America, for the souls who lost their lives due to burning, soulless hatred, for the forgotten who sadly only feel accepted within terror groups like the KKK and ISIS. We are hurting and wounded and lonely. Turn this righteous anger into a desire for justice, for hope, for new beginnings. Anger at the violence, anger at the President and his stinging words, anger at the division— turn this anger to good, and use it to act in peace and hope for sustainable change. It is not enough to be disgusted and then turn off the news and move on. Speak out, act with love, and begin to recognize those small moments of everyday life when we could love more and root out the hatred that continues to rot our communities without us doing anything.
“What’s important is that when we wake up to an injustice, we must immediately act. Take a concrete step right away, no matter how small. Not to respond to injustice immediately is to risk paralyzing ourselves. Action is a freeing thing. Find your passion, find the injustice that offends your moral sensibilities to the core, and then take action right away. Martin Luther King said it best: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” —Sister Helen Prejean (on her Twitter feed)
Staying silent during moments of crisis is an another irritation to the already festering wound. Turning away in times of need and crisis is easy, but it strips us of our humanness when we ignore others’ cry for help and our own ability to love.
“Am I regularly and actually letting this loathing spill over into action against all the structural, systemic, and more subtle societal examples of this [racism]? Am I actively doing anything to address the inequities, oppressive systems, and/or extreme gentrification in my own city? And the sooner we accept it the sooner we’ll move on to the *actual* work, which can be deeply discouraging and difficult. Anyway, I do loathe what’s happening in Charlottesville. It makes me sick. And may God forgive me if I let that be that. I invite you to take a moment and recognize that you and I are part of the bending of the moral arc of the universe towards justice. Yes, condemn the bigotry you see on display in Cville. Then, as Jesus says, go and sin in this department no more, as best as you are able.” —Audrey Assad
And in the words of Fr. James Martin, Jesus is asking us to act. To stand up against poisonous ideologies and hatred.
“Prayer is an active process and must lead to action. What is Jesus asking you to do in this struggle for justice? Christians (and all people) must reject hatred in every form and actively work to dismantle racism in our society and culture. With all this talk about “sides,” here’s what I know: Jesus is on the side of justice, love, and peace. Jesus rejects racism and bigotry.”
There is no cross, big or small in our life, which the Lord does not share with us. —Pope Francis