A Sign of the Times

I was sitting in a play when I got the call from my son that the verdict was in and I could tell that he was not okay.  I left my seat and went into the lobby to try to figure out what to say to him.  This would be a moment that all of us would never forget.  The tons of responses, the anguish and protests surged to a boiling point and the pot is still simmering.  Many have described a feeling of being caught off guard but I think that we were all caught forgetting; forgetting ourselves and forgetting our history.”

Standing just south of the stars and stripes are a people that have been long suffering, tortured, and despised.  We move and act as if we don’t believe that this is so. We go on with our daily lives trying to convince ourselves that the past doesn’t matter anymore, that we are safe now. Perhaps it is the middle class neighborhood or the level of education that provides this thin veneer of confidence to some.  I will not muddy the waters by adding yet another assessment of the case or, the particulars surrounding it.  I grieved as a mother and as a stranger too far away to know what the real grief felt like.

A family seeking and deserving justice became pawns in a chess game they never even knew that they were playing. To add my opinion to the discussion now would be fruitless, it is like participating in that dreaded taskforce meeting to discuss the reasons for the taskforce meeting in order to determine the actual task of the taskforce meeting, never to actually complete the task at all.  Most of us have “been there” before in some form or fashion and it is a waste of time and, in this case, a waste of life.

Americans have been breast-fed on racism, it goes down with the milk and we react with surprise when we see the evidences of it in the world and in our own lives. We are riding on the great Titanic that is America and we refuse to believe we are going down.  Shame on us! Our children need much more than what we are giving them.  We have irresponsibly sent them into a battlefield of a raging war with no armor . Yet we prepare them for school; we prepare them for sports, and prepare them for work.  In a word, we are responsible for preparing them for life!

However, if we are to be good stewards of the young, and the caring parents, and mature adults that our children so need in their village, we cannot simply prepare them for the ordinary tasks. We must also prepare them to withstand the onslaught of terrorism,  lawlessness, hatred, and moral decay that has become very much a part of the world that they are inheriting.  People are asking me what I am personally doing about the growing crisis; I see everyone putting their fingers and toes into America’s cracking dike all the while calling out to me saying, “Dr. Joy! Come put your fingers in the dike to help hold back the water coming through!

I tell them that I cannot.  I  offer them support and encouragement in their task,but I refuse to place my fingers and toes in a dike that is beyond repair.

I am, together with others, attempting to build a whole new edifice to hold back the flood of racism that is, and has always been, upon us.  The new structure needs all of our help to build and requires better materials; it is built of unwavering commitment, and it comes from knowledge and wisdom, skill, unquenchable enthusiasm, organization and fearlessness.

Every great civilization has its beginning, its peak, and inevitably, its fall. The question is… what time is it for America?  What are the signs telling us? The answer to this question will determine the course we all must take.  Still, amidst the recent turmoil, the outrage and alarm, the victims and their victimizers, the steady stream of uprisings and sorrow over all that was lost, a ray of light appeared for me in an unanticipated place and at the perfect moment in time.

I received a text from my 10-year-old grandson.  He had sent me a picture of a lizard, because he really loves lizards. He was excited to have seen it with its colorful markings before it darted away to a place of safety.  It had paused just long enough for him to snap the picture like a beacon, to remind people like me that it is not over! Beauty and horror coexist together and somehow we survive.

I found myself between two worlds- that of a national and global crisis on the brink of exploding, and the world of a ten year old boy that still sees the order and charm in the chaos. A boy whose hopes and dreams are ever present and growing, whose heart remains unsullied by the ugliness that is all around him, and in spite of the common history that binds the tyrant and the downtrodden.

This little struggling creature was a reminder and a cautionary message that we all must hold on like the many heroes and champions from long ago whose blood now courses through my sweet grandson’s very veins.

I wrote back to him and said, “Yes Nasir! Indeed it is a beautiful lizard.”