Last night, a jury in Ferguson found that Michael Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson, didn’t need to stand to trial. But last night, there was a different judicial proceeding being held, one that was less obvious. The United States was once again put on trial, to determine whether it was a nation that has the courage to uphold its own freedoms, liberties, and responsibilities. And it was found guilty.
All nations, and especially the most powerful ones, are built on the backs of enslavement and murder and injustice. I find no peace in any nation’s history or its present. But here we are on planet earth where laws and politics and government attempt to give people identity. I have never found any solace in any of it – it all exists in a communal imagination. Even though I know there are real consequences, deadly consequences.
I have no idea what happened to Mike Brown that day, but human nature coupled with the pervasiveness of socializations that are dependent on culture, space, and time, tell me that we did not witness truth or freedom or justice or even empathy last night. Not just in Ferguson, but in many parts of the country. What I am certain we have witnessed is yet another travesty. We witnessed power – a power that even in the face of the world, does not believe it needs to be held accountable. To me, that is terrifying.
The world is not my home.
But bad things happen. Many bad things happen. In fact, if you look carefully around the world, you are not only in the midst of evil, you are probably passively accepting it, and therefore complicit in it. It is the great consequence of being human. For me, it is never enough to be considered good simply because you are not doing evil. That is too simplified, too easy, and too willing to release yourself from the pains of the universe – the one at large, and the one that you live in.
Michael Brown’s story makes my heart heavy because in the end, when it’s all said and done, an 18 year-old young man is dead. How can anyone of sound mind and heart rejoice in this fact? But Trayvon Martin’s story overwhelmed me just as much. As does Chicago’s violent tales and those from most other cities. I find the many nations who kill their “citizens” and those from other places abhorrent. Racism fundamentally confuses and disgusts me. Every and any “ism” is deplorable. Poverty, to me, is a crime against humanity. The fact that children go hungry to bed at night, and that people die from hunger in a world of plenty, weakens my body and soul. The world and its injustices are endless. And we are all responsible.
Now, I make the people of the world responsible for all its crimes not to burden any of us with the immense weight of the world’s problems. But rather to see our place in it, and with each other. Indeed, if each of us were actively trying to be good people in our own homes, and with the people we know exist around us, then I very much doubt the world would look the way it does.
The truth is uncomfortable to a lot of people but searching for it – both big truths and small ones – has always made me find solace, even when the search has had no conclusion. I do not hide myself or lie to myself about the ugliness of the world, and the people in it. I do not lie about my own ugliness. I do not try to cover it up, or close my eyes to it. In fact, I want to see the ugly, and I want to know it.
One certain ugliness I have found is that many of us are deceived from birth about freedom and justice and peace. We are taught to believe that the world is an accident, and we are often taught to continue living like it is. We are taught that nations and government and entities, and other people are what fundamentally gives us our liberties and our choices. But I have always questioned that set-up, and I have found it to be profoundly untrue. If the entity supplies these fundamentals, then ultimately the entity can take them away. Putting my freedoms in the hands of people seems shaky; eventually, they will be found wanting and inadequate.
The world is not my home.
As a person of faith, I have found that my freedoms are best secured in the hands of God, whose perfection is beyond my imagination. In this human experience, I have found that He is always close to the poor, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden, and those whose lives bear injustice just by being. I have found Him always in the ugliness of the world, shining in glory and beauty. I guess one of the reasons I believe in God and I believe in life after death is because I believe in justice for the world. It is a terrifying thought because that judgment faces us all in all of our imperfections. But in the ugliness of the world, it is to me a shining light.
I think that’s why I believe in doing good above all on this earth – helping the stranger, feeding the hungry, coming to the aid of the helpless. Because these are all acts of love. And it is written that “love covers a multitude of sins.” I feel sorry for those who do not love. Because love precedes true justice and true peace and without it, I think one’s soul and one’s humanity is in danger. This is self-evident.
But I do not believe in a love that abandons people to their injustices, to false senses of peace, to accept inhumanities inflicted on them. If there is no peace in a place, question justice and truth, and you will find answers. And I do not believe in letting powers that be trample all over you – even Christ himself promised he came to bring a sword for the sake of love and truth and justice. That to me tells me love requires sacrifice and righteousness, and discomfort at times. But love is always about action.
I believe in a love that would have kept Michael Brown alive. I believe in a love that feels solidarity with the people who fight not just for him, but for many who suffer like him. I believe in a love that seeks an end to all the divisions that go against the great human diversity we have been given. I believe in a love that feeds the hungry, and aligns itself with the poor, and does not bow down to earthly powers at the cost of one’s soul. I believe in a love that is merciful and just; merciful and just. I believe in this love until death. And indeed it is a love that I am willing to die for.
This world is not my home.