Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back story

The exchange of words
that played itself out on my Facebook page late last week
left me thinking -
and it's right that it did.

The events in Ferguson,
racial divides, root causes thereof,
reconciliation and where we go from here
are important issues;
they reflect much of what we believe,
cherish, hope for
and hold dear.

There clearly is also not consensus about any of it;
to discuss these things with anyone,
let alone in an informal and indirect fashion
has the potential,
if not the probability,
of stirring controversy,
and misunderstanding.

It wasn't even a particularly contentious debate -
just an honest exchange between friends who see things
from very different points of view.

Halfway through,
a young friend joined the conversation with an impassioned comment,
portraying Michael Brown as being nothing more
than an impulsive teenager who made bad mistakes.
She expressed rage and sorrow that he hadn't been given the opportunity
to live through what she saw
as normal teenage acting out.

And, just as I was in the midst of preparing a retort
that I was sure would
a) put her in her place
(yeah, don't ask... 
I don't know where that would be either!)
b) prove my point and get her back on track
while being
c) scathing and brilliantly clever
all at the same time,
dazzling everyone with my knowledge and acerbic wit,

God intervened.

In a moment of grace,
I remembered her backstory.

Her brother died in his early twenties,
several years ago,
after years of struggling with drug addiction.

He too had not survived his youthful experimentation
and bad mistakes.

The pain she expressed
was not simply about a teenager she didn't know in Ferguson.

Her sorrow was for all those young men
whose impulsive poor choices
have unintended fatal results.

It helped me remember that everyone of us has a backstory -
protestors, police and onlookers alike.

We all have narratives that inform us,
feed us and give us life.

What we see
is only a small part of the whole creation;
what's exposed to the naked eye
is NOT what's feeding each one of us
and our perceptions.

Roots are tangled and go deep;
they're messy
and never as tidy
as we try to make
what's visible appear.
I need to remember that.

These Days 
whatever you have to say, 
leave the roots on, let them dangle 

 And the dirt 

Just to make clear where they come from 

 Charles Olson

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