Over the last three weeks, the mess has been made. This mess is coming in many forms. Burnt buildings, trash strewn, memorials laid and fortresses left. A city that we grew up in still smolders. The fires have been long put out, but the embers are still there. They are carried in the hearts of its citizens and those who protect it. The mess is theirs to put away. We are at a real tipping point, and much is about to change.
The night the precinct burned was the night that I will argue the city lost control. Anger, strife, anxiety, conflict and pain all mixed together to create a perfect storm. Those who were peacefully protesting had long gone home. Those who stayed were those who let anger take over their hearts and minds. They failed to pause and realize what they were about to do would change things forever. Maybe this is ultimately what they had in mind. I am not certain of anything at this point, other than we can never go back.
Many are calling for change. I am watching a police chief walking away from discussions. I see people taking over portions of cities. I observe statues being torn down and damaged. I wonder, is this the way we want to go about it. Are we going to act uncivilized and hope that we can get people to hear us? I certainly hope not!
As a teacher, I have students who struggle daily with their behaviors and emotions. When these students lose control, whether it be in voice or body, I remind them that in order for people to listen to you, you must be able to pause. Why a need for pause? Well, because if we allow our emotions such as rage, hate, anger and so forth, take over our hearts and minds, we are in no way capable of communicating to others our wants and needs. This is a long process and does not happen over night. It is human nature to lash out, but what separates us from the animals is our will and ability to actually do so.
What I am watching unfold on television and online lacks pause. Pause is what separates us from animals people. Pause is what makes people actually listen to you. Igniting fires, taking over cities, shaming each other and toppling statues does not. What this creates is more division. It divides us further, and makes us take sides.
Some might argue that all of this symbolizes dismantling things that are right or wrong. Ok. This is a good start. Let’s have a discussion. Let’s hear the why. However, by taking down statues, spray painting buildings and shaming our neighbors, we are not discussing people. There is a civilized process that is a necessary part of living in a society. If we let go of this civility, we will no longer have a community to reside.
I am hearing many leaders talking about institutional racism and targeting of the minority neighborhoods. They are demonizing the police and using them as a scapegoat to distract from the problems that lie within those very neighborhoods. I have seen this coming for years in education. Teachers have been burdened with being the teacher, parent, social worker and nurse. We have been told if we would just be a little less racist and a little more caring, that all would be well. This would fix all the problems. This is to atone for sins that have been made. If it were that easy, it would actually work and we would not be here. We would not have adults that are angry in their hearts and minds. We would not be toppling statues and blaming each other. We would have love in our hearts for all. We would stop apologizing for who we are and learn to find out what makes us similar instead of laying blame.
There are no discussions about the crime statistics that show these communities are actually harming each other. Only very few are speaking out about this, and they are being ostracized. I question this in my heart and soul. Why are we making the police responsible for all that is evil in our society? Why are they to blame for the immorality and lack of progress? I think it is like teachers and the schools. We are easy targets. It is easier, like anything to look outward instead of inward. It is easier to lay blame, than admit fault. It is easier to yell and scream in the moment, then to pause and have discussions.
My prayer for today is simple. I am asking God to give people pause. I am asking Him to guide them to heal their hearts, move forward in their thinking, understand that the past is just that, and if real change is to happen, we draw a line in the sand, refuse to look over our shoulders, and walk over it hand in hand.