There have been incredibly disturbing, frustrating and upsetting events in the news recently… but I guess when isn’t there disturbing news? We live in an awful, ugly, fallen world.
In the US, the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made me question, for the millionth time, my safety and especially the safety of every dark skinned male that I know and care for that lives here. With that question follows another – why stay? Or, why try to stay? After watching the video of Philando Castile’s slaughter I broke down into heaving, sobbing tears, gasping for breath, overflowing with sorrow. I couldn’t believe the depth of my reaction. This man and his family were strangers to me. I witnessed the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement while I was in graduate school. Each time I was horrified, unsettled, grasping for ways to understand this country that I live in. I fought to keep up with the rhythm of my work, but I never reacted the way that I did with Castile. Perhaps his death was just the last that I could take.
In the days that followed I struggled to mark the gravity of his and Sterling’s death on my own. I prayed alone and called a friend to pray with her. I am stunned at the injustice of their and every other innocent black man, woman and child’s death. I am anguished by the way their lives are so easily and thoughtlessly taken. How can this go on? Is anything really changing? And if it is, how in heaven’s name did people live day to day decades ago? Here and elsewhere. How did my grandparents survive? And their parents? This fear and racism disgust and slay me.
Then in France, on a happy, sunny, Bastille Day, people were chased down by a van and rolled over, trampled, mowed down. More shocking, senseless violence.
What can I say really that hasn’t already been said? What musings on the need for love, forgiveness and communication? I was reminded after Sterling and Castile’s deaths that it is good, and right, to spend time mourning the terrible things that happen. We don’t have to jump to solutions and attempts at reconciliation right away.
It has been 32 days since Alton Sterling was killed, 31 days since Philando Castile was killed, and 23 days since 84 people were killed on Bastille Day. These words of David in Psalm 6 (beginning at verse 2) are also my own:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of my foes.”
The opening of the psalm is a reminder that our sin is at the root of these horrible events, and also that God is angered by injustice:
“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.”
But it ends with hope in the knowledge that God hears our prayers and will bring about justice on our behalf:
“Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.”