Friday, July 8, 2016

Violence Doesn't Take Vacations

Day 7

In the week that I have been here, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, have been shot dead by police officers. And now last night five Dallas policemen have been killed by sniper fire at a Black Lives Matter protest rally. In America there seems to be no vacation from killing. The deaths of five police and the injuring of eleven others will go down as the darkest day for law enforcement since 9/11. It is worth noting that prior to the outbreak of sniper fire, the Dallas protest march had been entirely peaceful. The march itself had been to protest the killings of Mr.'s Sterling and Castile, forming a perfect vicious cycle of death. It is now left to us to take sides. This is what we do after these things. We rally around our guys. White people will decry the lawlessness and savagery of the black community. Black people will justify the police killings as an understandable reaction of a people fed up with police brutality, fed up with being the targets of police gunfire. 

I am in the middle of Benjamin Watson's terrific book, Under Our Skin. It is at once uplifting and convicting. I have not agreed with every assertion he makes, but I've also been confronted with some cold, hard truth that has made me uncomfortable and frankly...ashamed. Reading about race from the perspective of a devoutly Christian black man has been an eye opener, and something I needed to do.  I still believe that the essential truth about racism is that it is a spiritual problem and as such cannot be dealt with merely by government solutions. Still, we live here, not in heaven. The something that must be done has to begin with some honest self reflection, an examination of my role as either a part of the problem or part of the solution.

One story that Watson tells has stuck with me. It's a story about his grandfather, Pop Pop. In 1932, when he was a twelve year old kid, angry at being told he was inferior, Pop Pop decided to dive into the community swimming pool in his hometown of Culpeper, Virginia. Unfortunately, this was a whites only pool. Pop Pop was immediately escorted off of the premises. Several days later his parents got a letter in the mail from the town council demanding that his family pay the city for the cost of "draining the pool and refilling it with pure water." The story had become part of the Watson family lore, retold to succeeding generations as an example of what the Watson's had had to endure. Here's the reason I can't shake this story out of my head. I know what's in my heart. I know the kind of pride I have in my family history. I simply cannot imagine the kind of pain and anger that I would harbor towards the world if this sort of thing had happened to one of my grandparents. When it comes to all things family, I can be a bit of a hothead. It's the old story, I can make fun of my sister or brother all day long, but let someone from outside the family do it and I'm ready to fight! In the past I have often thought, why can't black people let go of the slavery thing?? I mean, good was 150 years ago, we fought a war to free them!! But now I will think about Pop Pop. Maybe it's easier said than done, this business of letting go of the past.

Ok...on to vacation news. Another cloudy day. Pam is out kayaking at 7 o'clock in the morning. We will probably go do some sightseeing today, a lighthouse or two, make do some hiking. We will also eat...a lot. The plan is to bring Lucy along with us wherever we go today, so say a little prayer for the girl.