Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Intimacy of Shared Grieving: a flawed prayer for our nation

I'm an unabashed fan of Facebook. I love it for all the most vapid reasons. Post those pictures of your babies. I drool over them. Tell me about the ice cream you ate that changed your day. I'm happy for you. Through this medium, I get a little pleasure from other people's little pleasures, and who doesn't need a little extra pleasure in life?

For my friends who hate social media, or angrily cave to participating in it, I've been less than sympathetic. I love the connection. I carefully "unfollow" (though not "unfriend") people who fill my feed with ugly pictures of abortions, or angry words against entire people groups and/or political persuasions, or glowing pictures of Mary Fallin. I've been politically apolitical, and resolutely fluffy in this singular venue.

I can't do that right now. There is a town, not very far from my own, in flames, emotionally and literally. This one town is just the spotlight on a national problem with fear, distrust, marginalization, and misconstrued power.

A boy is dead. A man, who I choose to assume became an officer because of the best instincts to serve and protect, is under a cloud of suspicion and threat. An entire community grieves and points to yet another young person lost.

This town is not an isolated town, with an isolated story. People are not angry about one death, but many.

Who am I to write about Ferguson? How am I to grieve with my black brothers and sisters? I don't have pithy answers for those questions. Maybe that's a good thing. Because right now, every time I see someone post something on social media, secure in their rightness, it deconstructs relationships and devolves into bitter back and forths.

I stayed silent because I feared speaking wrongly, even with the best intentions. And, I worried about getting involved in the kind of mutual ranting that ensures dialogue and compassion and empathy never see the light of day. But, every time I go to my Facebook to post a funny anecdote, or say the silly things I love saying there, my heart bleeds afresh for our nation and its problems of power inequities, distrust, and misunderstanding.

So, I'm sharing my grief, sorrow, confusion, misplaced desires, and mutual brokenness here. I believe that even if I do it poorly, I want to try, and should try, to communicate the emotions I share with so many, and my belief in my black kinfolk when they tell me that life here is still far from fair and safe.

I don't have a nice, clean ending for this post. I don't have a "right" side to represent, or a solution to promote, or any sort of resolution to offer. I just have this ball of emotions:

A flawed desire to brush it all aside, and get back to not having to face the reality of systemic errors and even violence perpetuated against minorities.

Uncertainty about the facts of this one case -- but certainty that regardless, this situation is inextricably tied to too many other cases.

Agony for the Brown family. And, sadness for the fear the Wilson family must surely live under.

Sorrow for the business owners of Ferguson.

Anger at the destruction of violent words and violent actions and violent shootings.

Fear that hard-working officers will become so embattled they take defensive postures, and lose the kind of sensitivity that sets them apart -- or that even if they don't, the public will refuse to recognize them as who they are.

Worry about trying to even communicate that I'm sorry this happens, and sorry it happens in such great numbers.

Concern over my own complacency in my position and privilege.

Grief at the brokenness of our environment, and the gaps between our communities.

This is my prayer: May we hold loosely our opinions, shed entirely our need to be right, and cling tightly to a willingness to truly listen to people who experience life differently. May we put away our broad paintbrushes, and the instinct to make entire communities, or public servants, or age groups, or any other distinguishing characteristic monochromatic. May we fight the urge to extinguish pain, and open ourselves to understanding and experiencing the grief of others. In the intimacy of shared grief, may we diminish the gaps between us.

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