When I was 10 years old, someone wise beyond my understanding at the time – a Sunday School teacher in a United Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada – made an extraordinary decision. He chose to take a group of naïve white Christian children out of the church basement. Rather than re-re-and re-reciting what we already ‘knew’, his impulse was to broaden our understanding of truth.
Week by week, he introduced us to other places of worship. A synagogue (the only one in this prairie, ranching, farming town), a Seventh Day Adventist gathering, Church of the Latter-Day Saints, a Russian Orthodox Church, a huge Catholic Church service and the one local tiny Mosque.
From that time forward – for over 50 years – I’ve been simply unable to bear and remain silent about injustice and negative discrimination based on race, religious practises, or beliefs. His decisions (how on EARTH did he gain permission to do that? I suspect it was stealth!) opened a space of acceptance in me that could otherwise have remained closed. My hometown was not a hive of radical social justice. And I am grateful to that teacher.
Half a century later I am on the other side of the planet, trying to take in a mass shooting resulting in the deaths of 49 Muslim worshippers, gunshot injuries to that many again, and lifelong pain and grief for loved ones.
I’m attempting to understand what I am feeling, and I’m not proud of myself.
What I am feeling is tired. Beyond sad. Nearing hopeless. Exhausted.
Because this Iatest mass murder is not surprising. We (some, many?) know this is happening, and has been happening for decades. Perhaps longer. I attended my first university class in 1976 in Calgary, Alberta. Everything that is happening now – socially, environmentally, geo-politically – was not only predicted in my classes 40+ years ago, but was acted upon.
There was action. Forty years ago! We knew. And acted.
What happened? Did we (some, many?) all get tired?
I know that my own disruptive/disruptor energy has been snuffed out at times. Punching at the air, often alone arguing against implicit bias and invisible racism, genderism and ageism, and what can seem to be a never-ending misperception of the common deep messages that underlie most religious and spiritual practises. (Living Buddha: Living Christ – should be on every bookshelf).
Did we (some, many?) fall asleep? Watch our real estate raise in value, sell up and retreat to lifestyle blocks, all-inclusives or cruise ships to snooze? Just at the time that the upcoming generations needed us to be teachers?
Remaining neutral teaches nothing. The sidelines are actually not safe.
I often wonder what might have been, had that Sunday School teacher in Medicine Hat, Alberta in the late 60’s (a Trumpland back then) snoozed.
One person can have profound impact. On another person, on a group of people, on a system and maybe on the very energy that fuels us (some, many?).
New Zealand is waking up today – literally and figuratively – to new awareness. None of us is insulated against the ‘isms of 2019. No matter how isolated, wealthy, and well-meaning. Staying with ‘what is’ – remaining neutral – sustains the status quo.
The status quo of 2019 is terrifying. Unacceptable.
Are we (some, many, All?) able to nudge each other awake and re-commit to the hard and often tiring work of social justice and keeping the planet not only safe but alive? Can we boot ourselves out of the sleepwalking of ease, happiness and insulating individualism?
I need my pack. Are you out there? Awake? Willing?
Can we attend each others’ places of worship with open hearts? Perhaps that’s all it will take.