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Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Hopes for Moving Forward From Ferguson

Television tells stories with pictures first and words second. In a world of disruptions, mortgage crisis, short-sells, derivatives and off-shore tax havens that are populated by ghostly characters who are hard to visualize, name or identify, Ferguson’s story is clear as black and white. It is easier to understand than climate change or the falling Euro.

We Americans have a history that is courageous, daring in human history and it is also complex. We financed our battles to end the rule of England with tobacco. We used slavery to grow our country and we fought the Civil War over slavery and whether to keep or end it. We cannot change the complicated past.

We cannot all even agree to what the past was yesterday, much less 150 years ago.

My modest proposal is that we move forward from Ferguson to a new future by taking time each year to focus on the past. I propose we create in our communities an annual day of grieving for racial injustices in our country’s history.

Whether the annual day of grieving is set up by religious groups or by civic or sports groups, what matters is that there be a space and time to mourn our losses under slavery and segregation. These are a part of our history and until we face them to mourn our collective losses, we will be bound to our history rather than to our futures.

Grieving about death, loss and hurts is a step toward healing. Being together to do so would offer us a time and place to pause, to lay our hearts down and give voice to the fear and grief that many of us have had to bear in silence for so long. When that day and night of grief is ended a new day will dawn. The grieving won't be ended but we might be transformed. 

Next year we can return to continue grieving for a day and then begin again.

In the Catholic traditions of Mexico, a death of a family member is followed by nine days of praying the rosary. The space and time are important for the departed soul as for those who are left to grieve.

Grief may be the doorway to a new way of defining ourselves with hope and connection, even if it means starting with tears and sorrow. Tears of sadness are expressions of our humanity that exceed the capacity of words.

For many Americans, moving forward from the scars of the Civil War and the eras of racism that mark our histories in the United States may only be possible by expressing our grief.

Will the day afterward allow us to move forward and leave the past behind? Will our grief relieve our hurt?

It’s not something we can know until we do it, but I believe it is worth trying. We’ve tried not doing anything for 150 years. We do know those results.