Charlottesville. Wow! A friend noted how the recent white nationalist march and violence in Virginia bore eery similarities to Nazi Germany. Talk about scary, right? What do we do with that? Did our leadership respond well? More importantly, how can you and I respond well to the racial tensions in our country and lives?
This brings me to the recent trend of NFL players sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. This is PART of what they’re doing to bring voice to the marginalized, to show us our land still isn’t free and there’s work to be done. Yet, on my Facebook feed and in the news I see multiple people decrying how disrespectful and terrible it is for players to NOT stand for and pay homage to the country.
“Really!” I find myself thinking. If we’re being super real and totally honest about what matters in life, does it really matter if someone stands or not for the national anthem?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply appreciative for the U.S. I’m glad to be an American, which is probably a good thing since I’m a retired Air Force officer. 🙂 But here’s the deal: I FOLLOW Christ, not Trump or Obama. I LOVE humanity, not the U.S. I LIVE UNDER the Reign of Love far more than America’s laws. I am a CITIZEN of the Divine Domain to a way bigger extent than I am of the U.S.
Maybe my stance rings true with you, maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps you love America, are indifferent to it, dislike it, or are somewhere in between. Maybe you’re religious/spiritual or not. You might be political or not. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, though, I think we can agree something is amiss in the U.S/world. And hopefully we can also affirm fear, division, exclusion, and violence are NOT helping us out.
Let’s pause for a second and consider a few things. Freedom of speech/expression is part and parcel to what it means to be American. In fact, our country was founded on the principle that everyone deserves to have a voice when it comes to governing our land, AND we DON’T have to agree. Given that our nation was birthed in the face of oppression, isn’t it a step back to demand people stand for the anthem? Isn’t it a betrayal of our Constitution and the roots of our nation to not applaud when NFL players speak for the marginalized in this way?
America calls itself a melting pot, a place where ALL races, ALL religions, ALL types of people belong and can come together in safety, security, and love. So, can we please do THAT more? More inclusion, more diversity, more expression, and more voices, NOT less!
When I was thinking and talking about this blog with my brilliant wife, Lisa, a clip in the movie “The American President” came to her mind as very much capturing what I’m talking about. True love and freedom is about being able to be uncomfortable WITH others (Note: Discomfort is different from harm. NO HARM ALLOWED!), check it out: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=zemrWBIc_hEadfb
I think looking at this from a different frame of reference, one I’m going to name the Yogi/Christian Lens leads to even stronger support for the players protesting, and hence minorities. Before being killed for putting Love above country and oppressive religion, Jesus famously told Pilate, “my kingdom is NOT of this world.” The point being, God’s way IS love, inclusion, and understanding, NOT the violence, exclusion, and fear of this world’s nations; and when one follows Christ, we hold the Divine Domain FAR above our earthly country.
The allegiance of Christ followers is to ALL humanity and ALL races, as opposed to JUST Americans or white people. Yogis, by the way, take a very similar stance. We see no difference or separation between ANY person. We’re EACH unique and ALL united. We are ALL the same and together in this crazy adventure called life.
Jumping back with all this in mind, I’d actually go so far as to say: Fear, division, exclusion, and violence are not only anti-American and anti-Christ, they are ANTI-HUMAN. Given this, I think the path forward is simple, yet not easy. Understanding, curiosity, inclusion, unity, peace, and love are pretty darn American, completely Christian, and 100% Human. How could these not be the road before us? What else is going to heal and bring us together?
Naturally, this raises a question about the white supremacists and their demonstrations: By valuing and practicing inclusion, freedom of speech, unity, and understanding, don’t we have to let them speak their mind? No. 100 times NO! I say “NO” because HARM IS NOT OKAY. Harm is the opposite of freedom. Freedom does NOT hurt, oppress, or marginalize others. Freedom is human and what they’re proposing is ANTI-human.
I’d go so far as to say I think true and complete freedom doesn’t see “others”, because there is no “them”, there’s only US.
This, in my mind, is where the power of both/and thinking and acting is helpful. We must both seek to understand the white supremacists AND declare the words, actions, and thinking are NOT okay. I think healing and unity will come when we both get curious as to what’s their deep needs and longings, listening to the stories and histories that led them to this way, AND proclaiming white supremacy will NOT BE TOLERATED, because harm is ALWAYS off the table and is NOT a right.
I don’t think anyone can be forced to change their minds, but they can be loved into freedom, because make NO mistake, supremacists, slave owners, slave traders, racists, etc. are JUST as enslaved as the people under them and/or what they wish for minorities. They’re chained to cultural and societal powers and forces beyond their ability to see and/or get out from under.
To see this, though, to help others, we must first walk the path. We can’t effectively journey with others down a road we haven’t already walked. While there’s A LOT that could be unpacked from that statement, I’ll boil it down to one thing: The good, bad, and in between other people do and say is also IN EACH of us. The answer to our ills is MORE understanding and inclusion, not less.
Again, there’s way too much in those statements for me to go over in a blog, so I’ll focus on what I see as the essential message: Consider white supremacists and racists, isn’t there something in you and me that also wants to push away, marginalize, or even harm those who scare us, are unlike us, or have hurt us? That black people, especially teenagers dressed in loose fitting clothes, should be FEARED is such a strong cultural message that my heart rate goes up and I have to mindfully tell myself “there’s nothing to be afraid of” sometimes when I see African-American teen boys walking my way.
Likewise, think of the NFL players sitting during the anthem or people on the streets saying “Black Lives Matter”. When you see injustice, especially a wrong done to you or someone close to you, isn’t there something that wells up in you? Isn’t there a primal roar in you and I declaring, “that is NOT okay!”?
(Me, when I was still rocking a beard, at a Black Lives Matter rally)
It’s been said the line between good and evil isn’t between “us” and “them”, nor is it between various groups of people. Instead, it runs right down the middle of EACH of us. For those of us who dislike Trump, can we see what we despise about him in ourselves? For those of us down on Obama, can we see what irks us about him in ourselves? I think recognizing “others” IN our self is crucial for healing, unity, peace, and love.
From this centered, compassionate, and unified place, we can move TOWARD minorities, activists, and, dare I say, even oppressors from a place understanding. We can hear, love, and care for others as we want to be heard, loved, and cared for. This, beautiful people, I think is a hopeful and healing way forward. I believe it can help us in practical ways, as we can change the world, our lives, and the lives of those near us via love, understanding, and positivity. What do you think?
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Grace and peace,