Indeed I’m grateful to hear that your current travels have you connected to some good people. When life gets particularly dark, it’s good to remember that we aren’t the only ones to wade through the shit of life. But, as you point out, the world isn’t just a difficult place for you and I. As we speak millions of Syrians are displaced and migratory. Turkey reels in the aftermath of a serious terrorist attack and an attempted coup that left hundreds dead. And this morning I was yet again greeted by the news of another shooting that left a black man bleeding in the street, this time for simply assisting his autistic ward at work. Thank God this man didn’t die, but he must wonder why this keeps happening, as I do, for this isn’t exactly funny to me that it keeps happening.
I must cling onto a reality that accounts for both the shattered remnants of perfection and the aim of our longing for justice. I must reach for a shared space of healing and reconciliation that can, as Desmond Tutu saw twenty five years ago in South Africa, the hatred of law enforcement and marginalized citizens come together at the same table.
In fact, as a Christian, this is tantamount to my spirituality. The two beams of the cross do not only meet in tangible space, the wood cut from trees in an unimportant province at the hands of a militaristic, powerful empire. They hinge and hold together the infinite horizontal needs of our common humanity, crying out with the same breath as Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So too does it reach the infinite space between earth and heaven, with Christ’s bleeding, naked body stretched between, lungs gasping for air with each ragged, pained breath. In my estimation, the failure of our society shows deeply when those who are sworn to protect and serve end up as violent oppressors, using their authority as a vehicle to abuse and torture. This week we saw that Freddie Gray’s killers were acquitted of all wrongdoing: not a surprise to those of us watching what happened in the case of Michael Brown, but still shameful and heartbreaking. In a world that paints the asphalt red when we march to the beat of #BlackLivesMatter, I want to believe that the bleeding arms of the One who came to dwell in our midst, the One who holds All together, can absorb this pain. Once again the arms of Christ hold Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the dozens killed in Orlando, and those police officers murdered by twisted individuals seeking their own sick sort of vengeance. I want to believe that even these killers, on the Last Day, can lay down their swords and bow before the King who sets us free from our enslavement to violence. Will they recognize him, though, with the face of the “terrorists” that we were sent to kill in the Middle East? I wonder.
It might surprise you to hear that my latest round of music has hinged on Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant 2015 release To Pimp A Butterfly. Against the backdrop of deep jazz cuts from some of LA’s most gifted musicians in the game, like Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and others. Although I enjoy the music for its own sake, Lamar elevates his music, already prominent from his last entry Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, to the level of contemporary prophecy as he rails against institutionalized racism, poverty, mental health, and cherishes the beauty of life found at the margins. That spirit, found so beautifully on the track “Alright” has propelled me to look again at the situations affecting Black America and hold onto hope. “Homie you fucked up,” he raps, pointing the finger at himself as much as anyone, “But if God got us than we gonna be alright.” The music video, shot equally between San Francisco and LA, moves from a dark, violent beginning to a light-filled, although ominous, ending. I think music like this is meant to be more than appreciated, it’s meant to move us into action. Isn’t that a special type of art that can do that?
Stay safe, Manny. You are in my thoughts and prayers.