Irreverent: Musings on Faith, Love, Life and Politics
A forum for kindred spirits interested in open, curious, and respectful but exuberant conversation about some of the big and small questions. Let's get down and dirty about spirituality, politics, and whether men will ever "get" women or vice versa. Sports is fair game, too.
Why are these white people using my black brothers for target practice? That was one of the first thoughts I had when I had about the Charleston massacre of nine men and women at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. I can't wrap my mind around this. I don't understand. I refuse to understand, were thoughts that followed in quick succession. But I'm wrong. Because if white folks like me don't try to grasp the depth o of the hatred some of those who share our pigmentation have for once enslaved and still persecuted citizens, we are part of the problem. The church where this apparently deranged and certainly hateful and vicious young man allegedly took the lives of a librarian, a retired clergyman, a barber, the charismatic state senator/pastor who led it and others has a long and storied history of resistance to white oppression. We'd like to believe that we are past that long and bloody chapter of our national history. But current events give that happy delusion the lie. The reality of what we are up against as a nation is grim and insidious - the rising and bloody tide of assaults mute testament to the fact that we can't keep ducking the darkness anymore. So many deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police or self-styled " neighborhood watchdogs". So much hatred, amplified by social media. On the flip side, access to platforms like Twitter has also boosted the increasing calls for accountability, including the way we choose to speak of violence against African-Americans. As commentators like University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler have pointed out, we are quick to label white shooters as "loners" or "mentally ill" instead of the terrorists they are - terrorism that has long been part of the American narrative. Or maybe we can. Move on. After all, we have before. Candidly, the fact that we are confronted with one tragedy after another on social media amplifies the temptation to become virtual voyeurs and leave it at that. Less than a day and a half after the blood of innocent victims pooled on the floor of a house of worship, there are already calls for healing. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's got the answer - seek the death penalty for alleged shooter Dylann Storm Roof. Because more killing is always the answer, isn't it, Governor? Others are quick to tag institutional racism as the sole issue, or to claim that we need more guns in places like churches (another way of blaming the victims, people who met Wednesday night to put into practice the teachings of the Lord they followed). An act of terrorism can be an act of racism can be an act of gun violence. All of these behaviors can coexist in one person. We all have our crusades - and often, they are sophisticated ways of walling ourselves off from one another - another way of creating a narrative of dominance. When we do that, nothing changes. Perhaps now is the time to listen. Listen to the voices of those who have been terrorized by the seemingly endless cycle of violence embedded in American culture. Listen to the grief and feel the pain and face the righteous anger of our black brothers and sisters. As someone whose ancestors suffered at the hands of racist killers who tagged them with universal guilt, I'm wary of blaming "all whites" for the sins of some. But as distasteful as it is, Caucasian men and women like me might want to take a good look at the alleged killer. We may not want to recognize him (overwhelmingly "hims") in our national story - or ancestry. But our black friends and neighbors are familiar with him. And unless we speak out, unless we act, unless we start to pay attention, who would blame them for believing that his face looks remarkably like ours?
As I look down the road and see an empty nest ahead of me, I'm scared.
You see, I don't have that many deep friendships. I haven't become part of a natural rotation in too many people's lives, and it worries me.
Next year my son, a junior in high school, will graduate. I also have a daughter, twenty going on 45 going on 16, who lives in a Northeast corridor city, finding her way mostly on her own. She's less gone than she thinks she is, but right now she's far enough away that I can't mother her the way I continue to believe she needs to be mothered.
I have been fortunate so far to have had two callings (the word "job" doesn't begin to cover them) that I love.
But being a parent? Raising the kids, more or less well, with all of the attendant bumps and moments of rapture and glee, has provided a structure and framework to my life - a purpose beyond all others, if I am honest.
Now that the youngest is about to fly the coop, I'm taking a look at my social life - and not liking what I see.
As someone who has a lot of married friends, I find that they tend to move in circles that most often involve other married friends. If you doubt, this, ask yourself with whom you have spent time at dinners, or on vacations, or in conversations over a cup of coffee or a craft beer. I'll bet that, most often, it's people who live in circumstances similar to your own.
Some of you readers will probably shake your heads in disbelief. After all, though, I'm quite the introvert, I don't lack for connections. Endlessly curious about human behavior and life's mysteries, I have no difficulty starting conversations, or engaging others. I've got friends, people I like, even love.
Why is it, then, that most of my Friday nights, when my son is with his dad, are spent reading and working more or less aimlessly on a novel at Barnes and Noble?
I live in the exurbs, and go to the suburbs for fun (yikes). Most of my friends are suburbanite married folk I have gotten to know through church(es), most definitely not hipster havens.
Let me be clear - this isn't a blame game. It's not something anyone can "fix".
And dear God, I'm not asking for pity. My nightmare is being invited to events, not because I would add to a gathering, but because someone feels sorry for that "single mom" (a phrase I adjure most of the time because my kids have a capable father, thank you very much).
When I first pondered writing about my anxiety in facing this life transition, I wondered if those of you who read this post about friendship and the single mom will divide, naturally, into two camps.
Some of you, reading about the challenges of being friends with a neither-fish-nor-fowl like me, will wonder why I'm making such a fuss. After all, those of you who are married have made a life-long commitment (even if it's not to be snarky, your second try as a divorcee or widow/er) to someone - and of course, he or she always come first. Everything gets run by your partner, because, well, isn't that the way it is?
Others will understand, because they have found, along the way, that diversity of friendships, including others in their social circles, enriches their lives and challenges them.
Neither of these two groups are better or worse than the other. I just need to seek out more folks in the second camp.
Which is tough for someone like me, who likes asking the questions and presenting other people's points of view much better than trolling for companions in thought, adventure and mischief. It requires remodeling - another transition - this one unsought, but necessary.
I'll let you know how I do.
And I'll try to move forward without bitterness, or regret, or even envy. Life is too short for self-pity.