Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Getting close to home

After a bit more than a month, followed by a two day road trip with Friends Nancy and David, Kintala and her crew are reunited. We are not quite home, not yet. Our Tartan still sits on the hard. We will not be truly home until she is floating once again. But there are boats all around us and water that leads to the ocean is within sight. We are close. After the week that has passed being close is better than being far away.

Deb and I were in Charleston just a couple of months ago and enjoyed a walking tour of the historic downtown district. The area was full of families holding little hands or pushing strollers. Grandparents walked with grand kids, Dads carried babies in back backs, and Moms fussed over hats and sunscreen. There were Black faces, White faces, Asian Faces, hijabs, yarmulkes, dastars, and cowboy hats. The Waterfront Park was graced with a wedding party and filled with languages from all over the world. At one point we were within sight of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. None suspected the outrage of hate and evil that was lurking so close in space and time. Just a few blocks. Just a few weeks.

Nine people were gunned down in a church during a bible study / prayer meeting, murdered by a young man who sat with them for an hour before opening fire on people who had welcomed him into their church. Yet the same old debates go on over guns, race, and religion. The expected groups take up the expected sides, say the expected things, make the expected accusations, and hide behind the expected excuses. A theater full of families, a school full of children, and now a church full of worshipers. How can there be nothing new to say, with no real debate that this isn't normal, or that we can't long survive if this is the best we can do?

There is a tiny chance that the Confederate flag will be removed from its place of honor in SC. That it flew tall and arrogant while other symbols, including the American flag, were lowered to half staff in respect, strikes me as a particularly hideous insult to human beings everywhere. But even a hideous insult is nothing in comparison to such an act of savagery. My first thought was what does or doesn't happen to the Confederate flag in SC will have little meaning. But maybe something unexpected will happen.

Perhaps we have finally touched our nadir, reached our lowest point as a society, and will begin to wrestle with what we have become. Retiring a flag symbolic of those who fought a war in an effort to keep their slaves, even just talking seriously of retiring it, could be the first whisper of something new to say, the first pebble in an building avalanche of change. The definition of “neighbor” could become more inclusive rather than less. Circles of friends could grow rather than shrink. Political divides could be lowered rather than raised. America could react with courage rather than fear, compassion rather than hatred, look for enlightenment rather than react with tribalism.

Instead of trying to claim that “we” are the victims (including openly racist organizations who are afraid this most recent act of terrorism will put them in a bad light, proving that irony has no limits) we will look to and honor the real victims. Maybe we will see them as our neighbors and include them in our circle of friends. We could expect – even demand – that the political system react responsibly, intelligently, and with a bit of humility. (Okay, that last one is probably years beyond our reach. The last influences of a failed generation – mine – will have to fade away first.)

Even the darkest of corners is still a corner, a place that forces a change of direction. It may even be too dark to see the change of heading, but it happens nonetheless. Deep inside most of our mythology is the idea of a “remnant”, those who survived to carry on toward a better future regardless of current failures and disasters. Maybe they are just those who got to the corner first and and managed to followed it onto a new, if still hidden, path.

I like to think that some are already taking up a new way, having already discovered a corner needs be turned. Moving onto a boat, experiencing the world in a way unknown to most who live inside the boarders of the US, was just such a corner for us. Others find different ways to move away from the darkness. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, (and my rantings haven't driven you mad) you are doing the same, in your own way, and in your own time.

We are close to home. We are surrounded by boats, and water that leads to the ocean is within sight.

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