I am sitting in my room, the day before I celebrate the passing of another year. However, when I should be reflecting on my blessings and doing my best to not look 53 (whatever that looks like), I can’t… I can’t because our country is in peril. I refer, of course to the continued killing of black men at the hands of those that are sworn to protect and serve, but it is more than that. Presidential candidates who do everything they can to divide culture against culture. States that pass laws specifically targeting racial groups. And no one can stand up and cry foul without someone else crying “foul against the foul”. Certain people of means – two in particular in a matter of weeks – convicted of rape, yet getting a slap on the wrist, because “it would be hard for them to suffer the consequences of the lives they have ruined”… the list goes on, is very very long, and doesn’t appear to have any resolution any time soon.
I have been quiet about a lot of the news articles, not because I didn’t care, and not because they don’t outrage me… I have been quiet because there doesn’t seem to be any urgency by those that have power and influence to address the peril that our nation is in. So, people take to social media and cry foul, and there are debates causing friend to hate friend, but nothing comes from it. No meaningful change, no policy change, nothing… When in the light of a mass shooting, our elected officials are more interested in reinforcing the kingdom of their own making – their political party – than actually doing something to protect its citizens… when some of the elected officials think that they are doing something by staging a sit-in, knowing it won’t actually do anything to bring about a worthwhile vote… when elected officials refuse to look at the statistics stating that almost 90% of the country wants something to be done about the gun issue… we need a revolution.
We need a revolution because this country was supposed to be a haven for people escaping oppression and judgment, but we have shown that we live for those very things. We need a revolution because only those with means… only those with means and who fit a certain demographic can claim that they live in the “land of the free and home of the brave”… the rest of us are certainly not free… we are not free when we are targeted consistently as potential criminals, when we are judged by the color of our skin, the clothes we wear, the accent we have or the religious institution we belong to, before we ever get to the content of our character. The rest of us cannot be brave… I hear mothers weeping for their young boys… boys that have not even reached puberty… weeping because there is no telling if their sons will come home in a body bag. Weeping because there is no intent to protect or serve them… only to judge them. We cannot be free because my choice of clothing – while still covering my entire body – may cause me to have a criminal record.
We need a revolution because we have and reinforce stereotypes of people based on their background… we pay special attention to people on airplanes who “sound like they are speaking Arabic”, even though we don’t really know the difference between Farsi, Urdu, Hebrew, Persian, Aramaic, Turkish, Soqotri or any other Middle Eastern language. We clutch our bags and purses tighter when a man of color approaches, not knowing that he might be a pastor, or a congressman, or just a nice guy…
We need a revolution because we fill our heads and our emotions with TV and radio that support these negative aspects of our society. Our news stations feed on them, knowing they will get ratings. We delight in shows that depict cheating, manipulation, judgment, prejudice and fighting… So called experts that thrive on tearing down people with a dream, and treating people that “don’t look or sound the part” like the freak show of old.
We need a revolution because people of all races at one time believed in the dream of Martin Luther King… Now the only thing he is known for is a day off of work, and streets where violence and poverty reign.
We need a revolution because we jail people for crimes that are ok if the government does them. We bail out banks while those that trusted the banks lose their houses. We protect certain businesses, but go after our country’s citizens who are just trying to survive.
It’s bigger than the hundreds of black lives that have been snuffed out. It’s bigger than a presidential election that has been marred by corruption and scandal on both sides. It is certainly much bigger than de-friending people on Facebook because they have a different opinion or like a different candidate.
This week we successfully put a probe into orbit around Jupiter… years and billions of miles in the making, all to study a planet for a year, and yet daily we tear our own planet apart.
In the Bible, we are told to “choose life”. Not individually, although there is application for that. But as a society. America, we need to choose life and not death. We need to prefer that people survive and not die. That we can stand together and not tear each other down. That children should have the right to imagine growing up, getting a job, getting married, and growing old together – not maybe making it to 18, or hopefully staying out of jail…
We have to change, and the change has to be major. We need to be more focused on good news, forcing our news stations to report on the good that is happening in our community more than the peril. We need to spend more on education than prisons – in fact, the whole system of “profitable prisons” needs to be dismantled. Profitable education makes more sense to those who choose life. We need better ways to deal with the true criminals without making anyone who looks like “that one person” a criminal too. We need our elected officials to not live in their own glass house, in a kingdom of their own making. They need to spend more time listening to us and making sure that we are taken care of, instead of listening to special interest groups who line their pockets with money.
We have to change. We cannot claim religious and/or social freedom for some and not all. We cannot judge people before we take time to know them. That is not life.
This country was supposedly started from a revolution… A revolt against the tyranny of a regime that sought to oppress, to judge and to control. The result and testament to the revolution is engraved on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883
Emma Lazarus was also the one who coined the phrase, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
We fight each other, and hate each other, and judge each other, and kill each other, and for what? Who does it benefit? Certainly not us… certainly not our country. Certainly not our world.
We need a revolution. One of love, of life, of peace, of equality, of inclusion, of togetherness. This revolution needs to be televised, but more than that. It needs to be lived, from person to person, neighbor to neighbor, community to community.
I am praying that next year, when I sit to reflect on year 54, I will see that revolution in full swing… or at least more evidences of it underway.
My son, Jon Hopkins (aka, BledJon) has taken this revolution to heart before I even wrote about it. Jon has begun a series, called “Acts of Affirmation” where he picks a person at random and writes about them – loving on them, affirming them, giving them life. Even if you don’t know the people, hearing the affirmation pouring from his heart is enough to inspire you to do the same. You can check out what he is doing on his Facebook page.
If there is one person that I know that is a love revolutionary, it is J Clement Wall. She has been challenging the negative social norms and bringing people into conversation and new understandings of community for many a year. This is not just a side thing that she does – it is the way she and her whole family lives. It has been my privilege to be a part of her journey. You can find out more about her at https://www.judyclementwall.com.