I thought of it this morning as I listened to the reports coming out of Dallas.
I thought of it yesterday –
and on too many days before that –
as I read the posts and lamentations on social media
about more people with brown skin
being shot and killed by people in blue uniforms.
Forty years ago, when I took out a federal loan to pay for my college education,
in order to receive the money,
I had to appear before the Financial Aid officer at our college
and, with hand raised,
swear an "Oath of Allegiance” to this country.
Included in that oath was the phrase
"I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America
against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
I distinctly remember this because it was at the height of the Vietnam War;
it was in the midst of massive student protests on almost every college campus
about our country’s continued involvement
and the cost in human lives on both sides.
My revulsion with our role in what was happening
in a country thousands of miles away
was ultimately over ridden by my need for financial aid;
the oath was uttered with much angst, internal reservations
and crossed fingers on the hand held limply at my side.
I distinctly remember this because, even then, I’ve struggled to identify ‘the enemy’.
The Vietnamese people were not my enemy.
The men of my generation who chose or, more likely, were drafted to serve in the war
were not my ‘enemies either.
Neither were those who chose to go to Canada
rather than participate in an action they felt was immoral.
Clarity has not come with age.
I know and love people who were born with dark skin.
As I see their beloved faces and those of their children during our times together -
which continue to appear magically on my computer,
keeping us connected during our absences –
my heart breaks for the hyper-vigilance and fear that is their daily reality.
A reality I can never know because of the color of my skin.
What I do know, beyond doubt, is that they are not my enemy.
I know and respect people who wear blue uniforms.
Men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day,
who take seriously their oaths to protect and defend,
with no crossed fingers and no hesitation.
Men and women who are forced to make life altering, split second judgments
and who do so with restraint and compassion.
They are not my enemy either.
These realities don’t mean that enemies don't exist:
those who cloak themselves in ignorance, religiosity, hatred and fear;
those who sow dissent and divisiveness;
those who seek to tear down rather than build up;
those who distance themselves from the humanity of the people with whom they disagree;
those who use guns in a perverted attempt
to exert the power and control over others they feel they lack;
those who abandon reason and civility to embrace violence
all come to mind immediately.
Throughout recorded history there has been violence between people..
but fighting hand to hand,
with catapulting balls of fire
or molten tar over the side of the castle wall -
as morbid and grotesque as those methods were -
are not the same as the weapons currently available for purchase.
In my opinion,
the two profound differences fueling the lunacy in which we find ourselves trapped today
are our fascination, bordering on obsession, with guns
leading to a militaristic approach to every 'problem'
a 24/7 media that is the feeding 'culture' in the petri dish that is America,
fueling our basest instincts,
giving equal weight to every voice
(no matter how ignorant and ill informed)
thereby normalizing the vitriol and,
yes, I'll say it,
We have dug ourselves into a deep hole -
or had the hole dug and been pushed in -
and it will take time to find our way out.
And the way out,
the only way there's ever been an out,
is if we come together.
The 'enemies' are all variations of US
and it's going to take all of us to fix it.
We must NOT become the evil we deplore.