Over the years, Rodney King’s cry of despair has been used in comedy skits, speeches, and varied topics of conversation. His beating after a high-speed chase in 1991 became another tragic symbol of police brutality and racism. He was stopped and beaten by four LA police officers and the attempted murder was filmed by a passerby, making King’s beating a symbol for many people of what is desperately wrong in America. Since then, communities have tried again and again to address this problem, which is far more complicated than most of us want to admit. So yes; we are a very divided nation, but it isn’t a new problem. It seems to be endemic to our country’s soul.
Why can’t we all just get along? America is and always has been an imperfect place made of imperfect people, and in this, we are no different from any place else. Our cousins to the north, used so often as an Edenic symbol of what America could be is now being outed for aspects of its hidden and painful history. Colonial powers, so often touted as places we should emulate, have had centuries of privilege based on stolen land and armed conflict. Dissent is often shut down by those in power; we don’t want to hear about what has happened in the past, so we try to force the oppressed to just move on and think about the future. Meanwhile, the battle cry to “Make America Great Again!” is used to convince us that if we just went backward, things would be fine. I have no problem with constantly trying to improve our nation; it’s the “again” part that should concern all of us. Nobody has ever, to my satisfaction, defined what that means.
We have gender studies because of misogyny and gender hatred. We have critical race theory because of racism. We have Jewish studies because of anti-Semitism. Areas of thought arise when bigotry brings pain and suffering to a particular group. And the attempts to have White Person Studies or a month for White Heritage are nothing more than ignorant whining of the oppressed. We have Black History month because every month is White History Month. We have feminism because men have worked tirelessly to keep women silent and out of power. We learn about oppression so it can be cured, not so white men can be “oppressed”, whatever that means.
Why can’t we get along? Because people who have power and advantage and privilege are afraid of losing those things, so they ridicule and insult and yell at the tops of their lungs; they don’t want to lose what they have, so they try to drown out the protests. Eventually, they will grow hoarse, and their numbers will lessen, and nations will improve. Governments will be forced to admit their wrongs. Justice will matter more than power. There will always be racism and sexism and homophobia (among other societal ills), which is exactly why we all can’t get along. Unless we are continually vigilant, remembering the past and learning from it, these societal ills will remain points of division, and healing will never come. Wise people – nations – communities – admit that these things are real and wrong, and work at healing so that, maybe, someday, we can all get along. Denial only brings more division. Confession and atonement might bring wholeness.
Prayer – God of wholeness and holiness, forgive us for our fractured ways and help us to heal ourselves of our selfishness and self-centeredness. Amen.
Today’s art is called “Division” by Dan Sproul.