“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” ~Andrew Boyd~
When bad things happen, really, really bad things, like Newtown, I have a hard time functioning in the world. The morning after Newtown, the first thought in my mind when I woke up was, "There are parents who are waking up to their first day without their children today." A crippling thought.
Generally I have to approach the very worst of the bad by going on a media blackout. I know the basics of Newtown, but for the better part of five days I did not go online, watch TV, or pick up a newspaper. No NPR, no news on other radio stations. Full media blackout. I got to spend time in reflection and with my daughter, feeling immense gratitude and still a nearly overwhelming sadness. When I emerged from the five days of silence, the world was largely unchanged.
But this is not really about that.
This is about Ferguson.
I don't care which side of the fence you land on. It doesn't matter if you feel Michael Brown was killed unnecessarily or if Darren Wilson was protecting himself.
It doesn't matter how you feel about the looting that occurred after the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson.
(But let's pause here for a moment to correct some facts. To not indict someone does not absolve them of the guilt of the crime. That Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown 12 times is not in dispute. That Michael Brown was not an angel is also not in dispute.The grand jury decided that based on the evidence presented they did not feel that a prosecutor would secure a guilty verdict on any of the potential charges. So they did not issue an indictment)
What matters here that an entire segment of the population feels that, once again, the system of law in the United States has failed to protect them. They feel that the law applies unequally based on skin color, that racism is institutionalized to shift the ever-growing balance of power to the ever-shrinking majority (for now). They feel this so strongly that last night, their powerless rage led some people to burn, loot, and steal, sometimes in their own neighborhoods.
When someone destroys their own home, rends their own clothes so to speak, they have lost all hope.
And again today, the parents of a black son are waking up without their child.
"Seek first to understand, then be understood." Proverbs 4:7
Ferguson is just a visible, violent reminder of how disenfranchised members of the black community feel. How vulnerable, discriminated against, and powerless.
Ferguson is a reminder of the thousand tiny ways in which the roots of racism are still spreading wide and far.
Until we sit down to understand one another. Until we recognize that "other" is the same thing as "self." Until we realize that the destiny of one affects the destiny of many. Until every child in this country is our child. Until we stop blaming and take personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Until we recognize truths about ourselves that are hard to admit.
Until then, there will always be Ferguson. There will always be dead black boys in the street, shot by each other, or white police officers, or black police officers. There will be riots and looting. Mistrust and suspicion.
Until we actually care enough about ourselves to extend that compassion into the world, the universe will continue to crush us. And we will never be free.