The Indecency of Silence
We have passed the time for silence
We have passed the complacency of safety and sanctuary. We can no longer convince ourselves that everything is all right, that we are the way we should be, the way we always were……
A young father receives seven bullets in his back. A white knee chokes off the life of a black man, already restrained and on the ground. Tamir Rice learns a permanent lesson at the tender age of 12 that it really doesn’t matter whether your gun is a toy when your skin is dark. Ahmaud Arbery finds out that he cannot outrun the insidious hatred of racism.
We know the stories, and we see the rage. In the deepest recesses of our hopes, we tell ourselves that these are aberrations, that the fabric of who we are as a people remains untorn, if a bit frayed, that the things we were told as children still hold true – Land of the Free. All Men Are Created Equal. To Serve and Protect. We speak of our exceptionalism, and sing our hymns.
But we are not okay. We have never been truly whole……
Tonight I sit at my desk in a horrified amazement at what we have become. I cannot recognize the tribalism that pits us against one another, that intentionally obscures the commonality of shared experience. I’m continually stunned by rhetoric that triggers our worst impulses rather than our highest aspirations. I cannot grasp a 17-year-old heart that carries an assault rifle across state lines to end the lives of people who think differently than he does. And I weep, truly and actually weep, for the callous indifference that so readily snuffs out hope, and joy, and community, and life itself.
We are not okay.
During this season of sorrow, I have tried to insulate myself against the devolution. I have wrapped myself in my own writing, and the editing of words written by others. I have sought the lyricism of the great authors that I will never approach, those voices that make the language sing and float like playful birds. As the world has darkened, I’ve sought the brightness of letters. This is a luxury, I know.
But there is no escaping where we are, no way of ignoring the disintegration of what was once firm and whole. We do not deserve the comfort of blindness.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador dedicated his priesthood to battling his country’s poverty, social injustice and political oppression. Shortly before his assassination, he wrote:
Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. it is right and it is duty.
We share our space with almost infinite diversity, with people who do not look or act or speak like us, with ideas that sometimes challenge the way we think or the way we live. Yet through it all we share the same struggles, the same desire for belonging and acceptance. The same desire for peace.
But know we have a duty to that peace we seek. We cannot sit by and indulge our mythologies. Peace is dynamism, beyond the reach of any measure of silence, or complacency, or smugness.
For Jacob Blake, and George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and the thousands whose names we do not know, we can no longer pretend that as a country, as a society, we are something that we are not, and have never been.
We have passed the time for silence. A correction is in order. And well overdue.