Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bastille Day, 2016

In moments when my mind is considering all the possible things that can happen, I sometimes think about how so many of the things we do every day require that we trust one another. And by one another, I mean trust our fellow citizens, the ones who are complete strangers.

We're driving cars at 70 miles an hour. Some of us are carrying lethal weapons. We all have it in our power to hurt others, to be completely selfish. And yet we queue up at the grocery store with 15 items or less in our carts. We don't talk during the movie (mostly). We don't spit in the salad bar. We don't push one another over the rails of bridges or onto the subway rail. We stay in our lanes. We try not to lash out in irrational anger against people we don't know. (People we're close to--that's a more complicated story.)

When driving, we don't drive up onto the sidewalk. We don't run into one another with our vehicles.

But now there's Nice.

Seventy people dead in a truck attack. (WTF is a truck attack?) People who were kicking back and watching fireworks and celebrating Bastille Day in a popular vacation spot.

That's a big failure of the social contract.

I was in a crowd similar to that in Nice last Saturday evening, watching people young and old enjoy Latin music and Latin dancing. The outdoor dance floor was packed. Couples on the sidewalk were showing off some fancy steps. My friends and I sat on a blanket with food and drink all around us. We took up a lot of space, but nobody stepped on the corners of our bright orange blanket. Nobody came crashing through the middle, knocking over the pasta salad. Everyone around us seemed to be having fun, and everyone had space in which to enjoy the rhythm and the music and the beautiful summer evening.

"So many people," my Aunt Clara used to wonder. "Where do they all come from?" Think about it that way and it's hard to imagine that all these strangers can coexist together in a big city, reasonably trusting one another.

Until terrorism undermines that trust. That--not the deaths--is the goal, to put everyone on edge, to allow no one to feel safe, to force everyone to deal from fear.

Snipers shooting at police officers also undermine that trust. Racism is a huge blot upon that trust. Inequality and greed threaten trust.

But other things pull us together--suffering, tears, joy, music, what we want for our children, the tenderness we feel toward newborns, the awe we feel when confronting death. These are experiences we share as human beings, and humanity is a very big thing to have in common. It's powerful--look how far we've come. Look how many hearts will reach out to the families in France, to the families of  Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, to the families of the police officers killed in Dallas, to all who wait or watch or pray tonight.

God bless our shared humanity, the humanity Christ has redeemed.

1 comment:

SK said...

Thanks Gwen... I needed this wisdom and perspective tonight.