Hello from my office,
The idea of hitting the half-way point of anything often causes a certain degree of reflection. Why is that? How did we ever come to the conclusion that half-way is significant. It must be sort kind of mathematicians’ covert conspiratorial attempt to make us all appreciate some kind of differential equations. Yes, Dr. Kahn, I am blaming the focus of this blog on you. Of course, it begs the question of what happens when there is no definitive end or boundary to what thing we might be considering? For example, when was the middle point of my life? I am pretty sure I am long past it. Yet, what about the person who tragically passes in their 20s? I am pretty sure the day my brother went back to work, after being home at lunch, he had no inkling he would never come home again. I wonder if Chad Bennington, the late lead singer of Linkin Park, did not think 20 1/2 was the midpoint of his life. When I realize that my grandmother only lived about 2 3/4 years longer than I have presently, it creates a sense of pause in me. When I take the time to realize I have lived longer than any of my siblings, in spite of substantial health issues, I am forced to ask how, and more importantly, why? Growing up, I never really considered the options my future might hold. I did not imagine why might be; I merely existed, and I have addressed that reality in other blogs.
Certainly it was a different time than it is now. Daily, I listen to some of the daily vitriol and wonder how did we get this point? Certainly some will argue it is the decline in family values; some will claim it is a particularly group’s fault or a philosophical change in how we understand things. This morning I was listening to a group of people and their support of some of the things that have happened stump me. They are not stupid, but what I realized is how deep the distrust of the other is in many of them. They are not that much older than I, but they certainly have a different perspective on the world than I do. This is the second time I have lived in Pennsylvania, and there is a connection of this covert racism (and sometime overt racism) that I have experienced here. The irony that it is here and is so prevalent in the state that calls itself the Birthplace of America to begin with does not go unnoticed to me. When I came to the Mahoning Valley in 1988, interviewing to be a parish pastor, I had to do what was referred to as a trial sermon. While I was at the parish that morning, I was told that a church council member had a KKK Rally on his farm just over the hill the week before. This stunned me beyond words. In the four years I was in Pennsylvania, during the first stint here, I saw KKK men in full regalia out 209 toward East Stroudburg in broad daylight. Again, I was stunned. While I had observed such pictures in history books or saw news clips, I could not imagine seeing them in real life, and particularly that far North (and I realize that implies a stereotype of the South). This past weekend, some of our summer students were victims of a racial slur (and while I am sure there was some trash talking back and forth), these students were followed back onto campus. This is not reasonable behavior, but again, I guess I should not be surprised. In this morning’s news, the NAACP just issued their first travel warning for the state of Missouri. The picture at the top of this post, is of a black man who owns a barbershop, which was vandalized and they wrote “Die N-word” on his windows. What makes this so egregious to me is the year I traveled on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team, my home church was in Blue Springs, MO, exactly where this happened. The racial undertones that are no longer so far under seems to be the consequence of a complete lack of respect for anything or anyone that is outside our own narrow prevue. The consequence is a society that works more to fuel the flames of bigotry and discontent. The consequence is a society that has no appreciation for what difference in culture, understanding, and possibility might bring. It is a society that propagates fear, extinguishes hope, and darkens the future for our children and grandchildren. I have noted the consequence of the loss of hope before. If there is no hope, the future does not matter because there is no belief, there is no care, about what might be down the road.
As I write this, daily there seems to be some question about what is true or not two at the very top of our democracy. As I was saying to people this morning, there is no way I would want to work for our President, and that has probably always been the case for anything in Washington, but for me, it has been elevated exponentially. It is stunning to me how there seems to be no consistency in message, expect perhaps for the left hand does not seem to know what the right hand is doing, but heaven forbid, they would be truthful about even that. I am honestly not trying to be overly political. For me it is a matter of embarrassment, and what does it to for the security of the world and the trust our allies might be able to have in our commitments. One of the things I have noted in my classes, and in previous blogs, is that when I do something, I am always the professor. It matters not where I am or who is around me, and the same goes for the President, or if you are a representative of the President. What you say carries weight and people listen, and perhaps more than they realized, people listen closely. I know that I am certainly not perfect, or even close, in every situation, but I do try to me genuine. I do not care that I have 14 years of college; that does not make me any better a person than those who are in my summer class as first-time students. It does not matter that I find myself in an upper-middle class economic situation, but that makes me no more important than the person (and often case a student) wondering if they will have enough to eat on a given day. What saddens me beyond words is the apparent growing lack of concern we have for the other as well as a increasingly malevolent attitude toward anyone different from ourselves.
This brings me back to my focus of 1/2 way. Our country, arguably the greatest democracy in history, seems to have lost its spirit, its heart, its goodness. Because I have an undergraduate in history, I am well aware of those times, in our still overall nascent history, when we struggled to do that which is right or just. Our continued treatment of Natice Americans and the re-emergence (or unfortunate reassertion of bigotry) of maligning most any group who is not white, American born, and ready to contribute because they speak English is no longer welcome or valued. The consequence of this attitude will have repercussions beyond our wildest imagination. More importantly, it will instantiate a downfall and more expedient demise of what was considered the most significant grand experiment in world history. Hard to imagine what will be left if we continue on what seems to be a path of mass discrimination, a path of pitting one against the other. What I am quite sure of is we are beyond the 1/2 point of America as envisioned. The beacons of light are being extinguished in mass. The hope of generations and the words of Lincoln will be lost on a generation who cares neither for the past nor the future. Going downhill is always a quicker trip than the going up. It is certainly my prayer that America can still grow and prosper, to be the nation which others can look toward for hope, but I am concerned. Time to rewind; time to reconsider; time to re-establish a belief that we are about liberty and justice for all, regardless from where they come. If they want to come and join this land of immigrants, if they hope for opportunity and are willing to contribute to this land, I say, welcome. We are still huddled and there are still masses, but you are welcome. If not, perhaps we are further into the swan song for ourselves than we realize.
With that, I offer this from my favorite band, albeit without some of the original members.
Thank you for reading.