There certainly has been a lot to think about during this wild ride of a year and I thought I'd start out the second half of the year by returning to my old thinking spot to sort out a few ideas.
It's not new, but perhaps not often recognized, that American politicians, media and secular culture often present us with a false dichotomy of only two choices that we are "called on" to pick between and then blindly support regarding any particular issue.
For example, you get to be...
...either a six-days-of-creation-Biblical-literalist or an evolutionist who doesn't consider God to be a part of the picture.
...either someone who believes that abortion should be ended or someone who is concerned about the plight of refugees and immigrants.
...either someone who strongly supports the status quo because that's the way you show support for police officers or someone who violently and indiscriminately wants to destroy all law and order in our country.
I'm pretty sick of these kinds of options continually being offered by media (both right and left) and I reject them. There are better options.
I believe in faith and science.
I'm concerned about and strive to love the unborn (and their mothers!) and refugees and immigrants.
I respect and admire police officers and I think we need a lot of reform of the system, partly for the sake of the good officers.
I've spent quite a bit of time walking with a family that I would describe as vulnerable through a very difficult legal battle. From this perspective, I believe it's particularly wrong and unfair that some people are more vulnerable in our legal system simply because of the color of their skin.
An Imperfect Analogy:
Before the priest abuse scandal broke in Boston in 2002, I was vaguely aware that there was a problem with some bad priests. When the news broke big, I welcomed it because I knew it would force the problems into the light and require reckoning and reform. This is especially vital when dealing with people of influence and authority (especially spiritual!). I had no idea how bad or extensive or painful it would be. But I did believe it to be necessary and I have never changed my mind on that point. This is certainly not because I hate priests or the Church, but quite the opposite. Evil must be rooted out. People (especially the vulnerable - children, the disabled, etc.) must be protected. And good reforms can only be good for the Church and for our many good priests - they even help protect innocent priests from false accusations.
I feel very similarly about the police, though I think the details can be more difficult to unravel, because force can be a very necessary thing but it is also easily abused. The police are in a position of incredible influence, power and authority. There are clearly some bad ones. The system at least needs to have a way to root them out and hold them accountable. But also, it seems to me that a lot of good police officers are harmed by, or even end up taking the blame for a deeply flawed system.
The movie Spotlight is an excellent presentation of the breaking of this story in the media. It's a painful but excellent movie, best for parents and older teens.
Pray and Love:
A very central tenet of my belief as a Catholic is that every person is unique and unrepeatable and made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus gave us some great insights and guidance into what that should look like (and what we should ask forgiveness for when we fail):
Love your enemies.
Do good to those who harm you.
Love one another as I have loved you.
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
Be Quiet and Listen and Learn:
Speak less. Use words carefully. Wait/verify before you post on Facebook. Spend less time on Facebook! Read less news and more Scripture and real books. This is some of what I'm working on!
I've read/listened to a lot of testimonies by black people who have had problematic encounters with the police and others. These include some people I know personally. I've also read some heartbreaking testimonies by black Catholics, who have been deeply hurt by clueless and careless words from fellow Catholics. I believe these testimonies are true. I will try to share some in a separate post.
I love history. I'm curious by nature and I read a lot. Over the past 10 years or so, I've read/watched quite a bit on the history of racism in our country. A lot of what I've read has been compelling, eye-opening and rather horrifying, though there are some bright spots too (and I've included a few heroes in the research list below). I'm sure there's a lot more for me to learn! I don't have any simple answers to how to make things better, but I'm pretty confident that it will help for people to listen and learn. Here are some subjects and resources that might help. Please preview everything before sharing them with your children, and share what they are ready for. The movies I have listed are mostly pretty family-friendly. Please preview anyway, partly because I don't entirely trust my memory on the details. The subjects for research can be a lot more complex, depending on how far you dig.
Movies based on True Stories:
Other Movies Worth Watching:
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Lilies of the Field
West Side Story
Topics for Research:
Generally, I recommend reading from a few diverse sources online and in print, including, but not limited to, searching out the Catholic perspective. Catholic Encyclopedia, Wikipedia and Snopes can all be pretty helpful.
The Know Nothing
Chinese Exclusion Act
St. Francis Cabrini
The Eugenics movement in the United States
St. Katherine Drexel
Ida B. Wells and the history of lynching in the South
Jim Crow Laws
Tulsa Race Riots of 1921
The practice of Redlining
History of Confederate Monuments in the U.S. (Date of origin and location are pretty interesting to take a close look at.)
Sr. Thea Bowman
Breonna Taylor and no knock warrants.
More to add later...