Tuesday, January 11, 2011

lamenting Giffords, Tucson, Todos

My heart is broken,
my soul is sick
because of last weekend’s attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords,
a committed public servant
whose life will never be the same.

I grieve for the death of nine-year-old Christina Green,
who may have followed Rep. Giffords,
or murdered Judge John Roll,
into working on behalf of her fellow human cousins.
I mourn for the four other people killed,
and all those wounded
(including five still in hospital).
I grieve with the families and friends
and all those who are learning to cope
in this new, tragic, situation.

My heart is torn asunder
contemplating the painful life of Jared Lee Loughner,
who struggled with mental illness
in a culture that fears and denies it,
a culture which provides scarce help for those who experience it.
I weep in sympathy
with the tens of millions of people in our country
who are mentally ill—
6% of us, 1 in 17—
and with the hardships
those with mental illness face
as they attempt to find support or even understanding

I am brought to my knees
by the death of civil discourse in our nation,
where too few public speakers
appear to respect those who differ,
or even imagine them capable of a valid point.
I weep bitter tears
because there are no longer
common endeavors
to build our nation or culture together;
I despair that every gain by one person or group
is seen as a loss to another,
and so resisted, on principle.
I am saddened
that willingness to compromise
or see another’s viewpoint
is considered a weakness;
I am angered
that authentic apologies
and taking responsibility for one’s own exaggerations or mis-statements
seems a thing of the past.

I am ashamed to live in a country
where it is trivially easy
to purchase semi-automatic weapons
and prohibitively difficult
to find real support for a mental illness.

I am outraged
as the many positive things about our nation
erode and fade
as the very concept of “good government”
is attacked and undermined
on a daily basis

I despair for our future,
if fewer qualified leaders
will choose to become judges or elected politicians
because of the hostile environment in the media
and the risks in real life.

I despair for our future
if fewer public servants
will meet with their constituents
because of the threat of violence,
and thus access to the politically powerful
becomes even more limited
to the elite and the already-connected.

I rage about our future
as fewer and fewer leaders
will challenge the outrageous statements and behaviors of others,
for fear that their picture
and their family’s address
will show up on some website “hitlist.”

I shudder and cry aloud
anticipating the inevitable results
as politicians who *thought* they could control
the violent fringe groups,
who thought a nod and a wink
and a little plausible deniability
would cover the violence they implicitly encouraged,
all come to the same end
as every similar scenario through history—
the violence spreads from the fringe
to the mainstream
until it is only halted
by more violence.

I hang my head
at the loss
of the example this nation could have set,
as a beacon to other countries, as it was 230 years ago,
but will now be one more regrettable example
of the need for eternal vigilance
against bigotry and violence.

I grieve for the Latinas, Latinos
and other Americans of Hispanic heritage
who are caught in the crosswinds of this angry storm.

I feel immense compassion
for the poor in Mexico,
and other places,
who are so impoverished
that they risk harm and even death
to try to sneak into the United States,
that they might attempt to earn a living here.

I weep for the poor people in our United States,
already struggling to make ends meet,
who feel threatened by
legal and illegal immigrants.

I sympathize
with the fear and anger
of working-class Americans
who continue to lose ground,
who have not received a raise,
in inflation-adjusted real dollars,
in over a generation,
who face rising healthcare costs
and fewer employment benefits
and who fear that they will lose what little they *do* have
as others are seated at the welcome table…

I am concerned
as the long-standing last resort
sold to white U.S. citizens
since before the states became a nation—
“well, you may have it bad,
but at least you will never have it as bad off
as those poor,
lawfully-oppressed blacks have it”
is finally, finally,
becoming less true,
to the consternation and resentment
of those who have had to believe it,
to make sense of their own difficult lives.

I rend my clothes in frustration
and grind my teeth to nubs
that our conversation about race and racism
is also polarized
and simplistic
and susceptible to knee-jerk pronouncements.
I lament that there are so few leaders
willing or able
to help us hold
deep conversations
and the hard work of engagement.

I am sorry
that we get caught up in blame and punishment
and forget that *every* one of us
can have a bad day or bad week
and end up saying or doing something tragic.
I am sorry
that we forget compassion, in our rush to judgment.

My eyes overflow with grief
for those who will yet die,
because we have not learned
the lessons of this or previous violence;
because we have not come to understand
that we must come together and work in solidarity,
or we will perish, isolated group by shunned group.

My heart aches
for all people who are marginalized in this country:
bisexuals, gays, lesbians, transgender persons,
people of color,
Muslims and so many others;
My heart bleeds for all of us--
*all* people,
of any race, creed, gender or other possible distinction,
who live in this isolating, ambiguous, violent , consumerist, hypersexualized toxic culture.

I am saddened
because this shooting in Tucson
will make it more difficult
to pull together,
to recognize our common needs and common interests;
it may make it still harder
to see ourselves in the shoes of others;
it might make it take yet longer
to feel compassion for those
whom we’ve heard demonized so frequently and thoroughly.

I lament that it makes me feel defeated, just thinking about it.

I end with the adapted words of my colleague, the Rev. Mr. José Ballester:

“O, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love, Spirit of Peace,
come unto me,
for I am filled with anguish and despair.

[Lest we be] condemned to specters,
walking the earth
to atone for our blasphemy and our silence,
[so] warning others of our foolishness;
[Lest we] look upon our world
and see no hope
and look inside [ourselves] and feel no joy,

Show me the strength and fortitude I possess to confront injustice.
Show me the seed of hope
that I might use to grow hope in others.
Show me the faces of all who suffer,
and all who cause suffering
so I may remember
that they are all my sisters and brothers.
Show me there is still hope.”

So may we be.
(follow the link for notes and references)


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