I’ve been a bit testy and irritable the last few weeks (some would argue it’s more than “a bit?”). My life is normally even keeled and drama-free so there’s something, or things, going on. For one, I finally quit smoking for more than a couple of days at a time. Former smokers will know what I mean.
Two, it all started during the holidays which isn’t my favorite time of the year since my son died two-and-a-half years ago. Grief never goes away. It lies just beneath the radar until it suddenly crashes over you in violent waves. It’s usually spurred by birthdays and holidays, of which Christmas is both – Jesus and Jeremy shared the same birthday.
Perhaps last, but definitely not least, is the constant barrage of news media telling me how bad everything is. I’ve cut down on my news intake for the most part, limiting it to NPR in my truck and the local news and weather at night. Such limitations started a wave of withdrawal symptoms from this old Political Science major and news junkie. It’s not that I don’t want to isolate myself from the issues at hand. It’s simply a matter of finding some balance – focusing on the things that I can change and, as the Serenity Prayer says, finding the courage to change the things I can.
I came home from a meeting late last Friday evening. I quickly sat down at my computer to see the news – the Memphis Police Department released the video footage of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death by five Memphis police officers. I was only able to watch portions of the video described as “horrific” by city officials. “Horrific” was not a strong enough adjective. Sickening, inhumane, and criminal were more descriptive. People paid to “protect and serve” beat and kill instead…
Protest erupted across the nation as once again a black man is murdered by the police. The media will give short clips of them, focus on the violent ones – peaceful demonstrations don’t get good ratings – and they’ll stress that each of the former officers involved were also black. Most white folks will see that as validation for their own misguided, overt and covert, beliefs in white supremacy. Right-wing Republicans will invoke fear by saying Democrats want to defund and abolish the police. Democrats will pay lip service to police reform to appease their base and then do nothing. Divisions along racial and political lines will further deepen, and life will go on unchanged until the next black man, and the ones after that, are murdered by the police.
I’m angry and sad, but most of all, I’m tired and frustrated. Tired of hearing another Black man has been killed by the police. The problem remains the same. Government is hopeless – right-wing, left-wing, progressive or Christian nationalist, Democrat of Republican – it does little to change a corrupt and inequitable system. The system is where the problem is and the hardest thing to change. It will be the same old, same old: words, thoughts, prayers for the family, and complete inaction to do anything about the problem. Stories will begin to fade from the media and the cycle begins again.
I’m frustrated by the national insanity I witness around me. If insanity is “doing the same thing expecting different results” then America needs to be locked away in a global sanitarium and undergo some serious shock treatment. I need some serious therapy just to get through this mess. Fortunately, my faith, both in God and in His kids, and the words of Thomas Merton, “To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration.”, remind me that once again, I’m right where I need to be.
When I remember what’s driving the frustration I can begin to seek solutions – what I can do. I find that multi-tasking is more difficult as I get older so I try to focus on my job – growing food and providing access to those who have been abandoned by food apartheid – and do it better than ever. I can see the myriad of people around me who feel the same frustration and yet, keep doing their very best to act in a manner consistent with the idea of hope – hope for truly loving God, loving their neighbor (and not having to ask who their “neighbor” is), and working for the common good through selfless service. I am not alone.
Thank you to all the other frustrated people working toward a world that values each person for who they are no matter what. I’m so grateful for all the frustrated folks who keep forging ahead no matter how far the goal of a beloved society may be. I’m so grateful that although we’re tired we still share frustration with the stratus quo and still remain hopeful that we are bending the long arc of justice to build a place of love, acceptance, and kindness consistent with the real kingdom of God.