According to a Christian writer, the path to salvation requires faith, hope, and charity. He singles out charity as the greatest of the three. As we review the history of this hemisphere there is sufficient evidence to challenge that. In order to continue to invest and believe in a better tomorrow the underlying virtue may be hope, even before belief.
This is written only days after the massacre of children and adults in suburban Connecticut. For those residents, families, and classmates to face this day, to get out of bed, to continue, there must be the hope that they can confront the sorrow. There is no need to compare one massacre to another. These are not exceptional in our national history. From the very beginning we created a trail of tears. This is the legacy of the country’s foundation, and repeated over centuries through enslavement, germ warfare, and lynching. This behavior is in our blood history. Those who personally are victims to the horror don’t see how they can face the tomorrows – surely life can end now. But it does not. The sun rises and another day begins.
President Obama as the national leader stated that this violence has to stop. That is a voice of hope. Belief that it can change will be based upon our response to how. We must examine our rationale of manifest destiny, the right to bear arms, the definitions of citizen responsibility. Of course the final measure is action, not words.
Hope enables us to face the next day, the remainder of days in our lives. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon once described for an audience the emotions of an enslaved mother whose child was sold from her. The mother knew (believed) that she would not live through the night after that separation. She was shocked when she woke the next morning. Still numb, she took her hoe and went into the cotton field. None of this was bearable but she survived maybe through a personal compact with the Almighty that a better day would come (hope).
As we read the history of broken treaties, massacres, encroachment, genocide and mandated cultural oppression fomented upon indigenous people by citizens and the US government, the violence perpetrated is regarded as the cost of civilization and progress. After decimating these original people for centuries we now shed a tear and wholeheartedly express regret for their present circumstances.
In all this history, those of us who have been historically on the receiving end of this violence hope that as these effects of a portion of our national character hit closer and closer to home that all will assess this culture of tolerated violence. It is reflected in the mass media, children’s games, literature, language. No longer does it happen to the other. It is now happening to us indiscriminately. Routinely and frequently justified by laws based upon interpretation of the Second Amendment, resolutions and solutions to personal fear, anger, or paranoia are reached through violence or threat of violence. Those who may be unstable do not make the fine distinction, only reach for the method. The “why” of their actions is for the psychologists and sociologists to determine in individual cases. The killers are “crazy,” the schizophrenia of this nation’s stated ideals is “crazy,” the ‘stand your ground’ laws are “crazy,” night after night of popular television shows portraying gruesome murders and violent behavior is “crazy.” Putting a curfew on broadcasting or movie rating does not address the portrayals or access. Gun control will limit these acts and access only to a degree.
In one of the richest nations in the world a quarter of our children are living in poverty, and no one can figure out how or why to eliminate total unemployment. Mental and physical health costs are excluding people who need treatment in a country where the most advanced technical health capability exits. Malcolm X said it, “chickens coming home to roost.” Listing of all these things is necessary because they are all related to the “why” this happened and continues to occur more and more frequently.
We hope that we can believe in change and act to make a better world. What are our values? To what are we committed? Will we take the responsibility to change? Charity? Oh, that comes in on that second admonishment by a Jewish teacher: Love thy neighbor as thyself. We can only hope.