Dear Friends: Our bodies cannot live outside of history, nor can we live outside of history’s cruelty, its “mixing memory and desire.” Rowing our boats with our backs toward the future, we despair at the carnage we watch flowing out from our wakes—oceans choked by our poisons, lives crushed by our bigotry, truth and kindness twisted by our greed. Some bits of beauty bob along, too. But it’s easy to view the whole scene as basically grim.
The Books section of the September 2018 Friends Journal includes reviews of three exemplary works to help “white” readers go deeper into self-awareness about the hidden dynamics of racism. This post offers an excerpt from each review. We strongly encourage you to read the linked reviews and to seek out the books themselves.
At the moment we are all afraid. All of us. On whatever part of the spectrum of belief we stand, there is nothing else in the pubic conversation right now except fear. Some of us express that fear as anger or resentment—or hope—but fear is the taste of this age.
And it’s all based, to put it bluntly, on what “sells newspapers”—on what distracts us, out-weighing what is real in our personal lives with what we are supposed to feel afraid of.
Terrorism is universal in all cultures, in all traditions, in all times. Terrorism is only a means not an end, in human behavior. When other means are not perceived as effective, terrorism is a final option. The only way to stop terrorist is talking.
“After touring the grounds of Buchenwald and going through the crematorium, where we viewed the ovens used to burn the corpses, I walked the group over to a shady spot, the zoo built for the entertainment of the SS officers. And there I tried to talk about God.” —Richard Beck
We humans put a human face on God. Then we blame and barter with that God, having projected onto God the capacity for human action, human courage and compassion, human intervention. We ask, “Why does God allow this?”
Amid the wide global turmoil stirred by America’s current flexing of authoritarian nationalism, a deeper spiritual turmoil has been brought to light by the current administration’s use of the apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
There is a willful blindness at work in this government and its supporters, a steadfast unwillingness to acknowledge—or care—that the families fleeing to the United States from Central America are refugees seeking asylum from violence in their homelands.
Linda Villarosa reports that not only are infant mortality rates for black infants more than double that for white infants, but that this situation is worse than in 1850. She writes that a college-educated black mother is more likely to die related to childbirth than a white mother with an 8th grade education, and points to systemic racism as being a likely root cause.
With last week’s opening1 of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (a.k.a. the Lynching Memorial) in Montgomery, Alabama, I think every single American, particularly those of us who have never felt the sting of bigotry and prejudice, should pause and reflect on our role in the injustices that permeate our country.
On March 31, 2018, Dr. Sa’ed Atshan will present the 54th Walton Lecture, “Quaker Response in Turbulent Times,” to the Southeastern Yearly Meeting (SEYM) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The December 2017 issue of Friends Journal includes Martin Kelley’s interview with Dr. Atshan, “The Challenges We Face and Community We Forge.” We are republishing excerpts with permission.