HAMLET (Speaking to his mother, Gertrude)
Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, scene III, act IV)
Are you pleased with the America that you see? Are you pleased with how quickly you have grown, from an infant nation uncertain even in your founding, what exactly you would become? And listen, anyone proclaiming that they (the founders) had any clue what we would become is either ascribing supernatural powers to themselves, or they are so ensconced in their own reality, with their own perceptions and interpretations of the events leading up to now, that they believe that this is what was intended.
The thing about looking into the mirror is that it takes our 3-dimensional past, displays it as a 2-dimensional image juxtaposed over and under by subsequent images past and present. We end up seeing the breath of the problem but not the depth.
As we look over the events of just the last few months, the abuses of authority, the shooting, the killing of unarmed Black and Brown Men and then juxtapose them over the events of the last few months, in Staten Island, Baltimore, in Ferguson, in Zion, in Cleveland, in Queens, in Pennsylvania, we see a conflation of actions that speak to insidious nature of the institutional racism that exists in our nation.
When we look at the disparity between the way white men and Black men are treated by the justice system what we are seeing is system stripped of all nuance and subtlety. A system where a knee on the neck of George Floyd, a Black Man by a police officer, and a pat on the back and a bottle of water to Kyle Rittenhouse, a white man who had just been pointed out to police as a person who had just shot three people, killing two of them, are both looked upon, by some, as ok.
A system where Black People are so unvalued that Philando Castile, a Black Man can be shot 5 times and killed in front of his partner and her daughter.
Where Jacob Blake, a Black Father can be shot, in the back seven times, in front of his sons.
Where Breonna Taylor, a Black Woman, can be awakened from her sleep in the middle of the night, shot eight times and killed in her home.
Where Sandra Bland, a Black Woman can be killed in the custody of police for failure to signal in traffic.
All harmed by people sworn to “protect and serve.”
Where Treyvon Martin a Black Teenager can be killed for walking down a street in his father’s neighborhood.
Where Ahmaud Arbery, a Black Man can be hunted down and killed for simply taking a morning jog.
These Black Men killed by vigilantes with no legal allegiance, just an allegiance to a cause of suppression and oppression of a people who have earned the right to live and be free.
It is the breath of this cause that it gives us pause. Is this too difficult a task, is this beyond us? It is the depth of this cause, though, that gives us reason, reason to continue this struggle.
What we are not seeing because of the confusion of that conflation is that, in the depths of the image is a shift in the look and the dynamics of it. In the cacophony of voices and sounds there has been a change in the tone and timbre. The cacophony has become a symphony.
What we must remember about a symphony is that it is more than just a song, it is a series of songs that become a movement. Movements that come together to tell the story, this story, a story of change.
The depths of racism in this country are so deep that at its core it is affecting all of America. Healthcare, education, housing, employment, business, these are all areas touched and influenced by what is a most insidious of affectations.
Racism is a disease of the heart. A disease not unlike the virus COVID19 in that it hardens the heart in much the same way that the virus does our lungs and other organs.
There is a cure, though, for this disease. It begins with concern and compassion. It continues with a commitment to caring. Finally, a will to change.
- Concern will lead to identifying where the roots of our problems as a people are.
- Compassion will lead to empathy, the recognizing of another’s pain. To feel another’s pain. To walk a mile in another’s shoes.
- Commitment to caring is where we lift one another up. Where we replenish, refresh, and restore the faith of others and our faith in ourselves.
- Combining these elements gives us a path to a cure to this curse we live with.
Now America, you are a young nation and in your short time you have grown strong and powerful. Strong in your capabilities and powerful in your influence. Look at what is the true source of your strength. Your strength historically has been your diversity. There have been many hands that have pulled the oars, tilled the fields, built the roads, the bridges, the cities. These hands have come in many colors, they have come from many places but without any one piece this puzzle could not be made complete.
As with those hands, these hands I see raised in protest of our current societal issues are equally diverse. It is not that we were ever all alone in this struggle, it is that there is a greater understanding of the components involved in it. There is a greater awareness of how we must fit together, what our role in reconstructing the original founding intent and constructing a new one, a more perfect founding for a more perfect union that extends the promise of America to all its citizens
This is a time for remembering. We need to either remember the country we once were, or we need to remember the country we aspired to be. A more perfect Union, always looking to be a better version of us.
In the scripture Matthew 13:15, I believe I have found both cause and cure:
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
America let’s sit a moment and talk. Sit still, while we hold up a mirror so that “you may see the inmost part of you.”