Yesterday when I returned home from church, I was appalled to find that a church in Texas had been attacked and that an untold number of people had been killed and/or injured. The first thought that raced to my head was, “God, don’t let it be a black church.” Then when I discovered it was not a black church, I prayed, “God, don’t let it be a black or brown shooter.” My prayers were answered…but what a horrible prayer.
It does not matter what color the victims or the perpetrator were. It is a heinous act. It should be abhorred by all Americans…all people.
This brought me to a sobering realization.
I have allowed today’s divisive racial politics to affect my thoughts and infect my humanity. This realization caused me to see that, while this horrific shooting is not directly born of any particular political viewpoint, my reaction to it is. My reaction is based upon the ethnic violence engendered by the hatred and distrust that permeates our country; feelings emboldened and normalized by the President of the United States.
Trump should not have even crossed my mind in this situation. My focus should solely have been on the victims of this tragedy. But this age of Trumpism has effectively subdivided us from our humanity, causing many of us to look at everything through the prism of race. Unfortunately, it seems, I too have succumbed to the unforgiving onslaught of divisive media reports of the misdeeds of a hateful minority which have led to racial distrust and outrage.
Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to distrust, and much over which to be outraged. But we cannot let Trump and his band of deplorables drag us down to their level. We cannot lose, or misplace our humanity to the extent that we paint everyone in a category other than our own with the same brush. We must not care less for the pain and suffering of those who differ from us than the pain and suffering of those with whom we identify.
America has always had its problems. That is not an accusation. It is a fact. Our history speaks for itself. But we have been better than this. In the face of Bull Connor, the water hoses and the dogs, America stood up and said “no…enough!” When our youth were sent to be slaughtered in Vietnam, the masses rose up against it. Even when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot down on the hotel balcony in Memphis, we had leaders like Bobby Kennedy who felt our pain and called on America’s better angels to calm our hurt and anger.
But today there is no such leadership. Today we are sent to our respective corners to prepare ourselves to come out fighting. While many hope and pray for the America that we know and love to come forth, to stand against the onslaught of cultural hatred, injustice, racism, violence and fear-mongering, we are simply tired of the fight. Tired of waiting for American values to once again take the fore-front…for American politicians to be patriots…for the American justice system to be just.
In the famous words of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hammer, “I am just sick and tired of being sick and tired.” But if we give in to the fatigue, we lose. America loses. We must not become like them. We must not embrace the politics of division.
I do not know what answer will make America realize its glorious potential. I don’t know what it will take for us to return to our nationhood and pursue the common good. There is not a solution on the horizon that I can see. All of our politicians have failed us…Democrat and Republican; black and white; conservative, liberal and progressive. There are no acceptable answers found among any of the current players on the field of politics. But an answer must be found if we are to survive.
I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I refuse to let Donald Trump and his ideologues dictate my perception of the world and those around me. We cannot afford to ignore the caustic comportment that permeates our current politics. But each of us must search for a way to lock out the clutter and dig down to the hard facts. We must identify the many corrupt, unscrupulous acts that taint our current political climate and demand just punishment for the perpetrators. That is the only way to maintain our common humanity.
My heart goes out to the souls who were lost, wounded and aggrieved in that little Texas town. They are my brothers and my sisters. They are Americans. And they deserve better.