It seems to me that we have forgotten to see each other as human. We saw this over the weekend here in Charlottesville, a town that I have come to know and love for the past six years. We have forgotten to see each other as human and neighbors.
I don’t say this from a place of high moral standing. I may be a member of the clergy, but this weekend I cannot sit on the high moral standing of the clergy. It’s because I am too angry, too exhausted, and too upset. My town has been invaded by white supremacists twice this summer. Twice. They invaded my town. They stood beside the very library where I take my sweet daughter every two weeks to check out Clifford books. These demonstrations happened near the place where I get my hair cut by Packmo, every eight weeks. These demonstrations happened near the Children’s Museum where I take my daughter. There’s my favorite yarn store very close by.
I say all these things as a white woman with a lot of privilege. I’m only complaining about the library I couldn’t go to, and the hair cut place. They aren’t protesting and getting in my face. I’m not a problem in their view. But my minority neighbors are, and they suffer more than I do when these things happen.
I wish I could say that I condemn all the violence on both sides. I cannot say that with my whole heart. I’m too angry. I’m too cranky. I can only see the counter-protestors as human. Our town has been invaded twice by white supremacists. It has been a lot to bear. The urge to grab your pitchfork and protect your town is very strong. It’s understandable. I’ve felt it too. I also feel the need to remind folks that not everyone is a Christian and believes in non-violence. We cannot hold other people to a standard they may or may not believe in.
As for the white supremacists, I abhor what they stand for and what they have done. I am more than happy to point fingers at them. But even for all their vile words, deeds and torches in hand-they are still just human. They are still people after all. And I am trying to remind myself of that. I am trying to tell myself that these people believe evil things and do evil things, but they weren’t created that way. They weren’t born to hate. Someone taught them that. They learned it. And I do believe with all my heart that there is goodness in them. I pray that they will return to that goodness and let go of their hate.
It’s easy to point fingers and say what a mess, especially when it isn’t your town. It’s easy to stay above the mess and make proclamations about non violence. But I feel like that’s the above the ground approach. I’m here on the ground and all I see are humans giving into their brokenness. I see humans spewing hatred that someone taught them. I see humans grabbing their proverbial pitchforks and protecting their town. I also see clergy trying to bring peace to a chaotic day. I also see faithful Christians praying, singing and walking together. The church showed up last week and on Saturday, like we were supposed to.
There are a lot of things that need to be talked about as a result of Saturday. We need to talk about race and and how awkward it is to talk about race. We need to talk about where we’ve been-slavery, Jim Crow and recent events. We need to talk about different faith traditions, especially the Muslim tradition, so we can better understand each other.
There’s a lot to talk about, but we first need to see each other as human. And that might mean we need to be more understanding and more forgiving. And after the events over the weekend, the forgiving part is going to be the hardest.