What a week it’s been. Besides the ugly news headlines that appear regularly these days, we’ve had the annual remembrances of the terrible suffering caused by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As controversial as the bombings were, we can all agree that war causes great suffering for civilians caught up in it. Gen. Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bombs, was so wrong when he said death by the bombs was “without undue suffering” and “a very pleasant way to die.” At what point does the extent of suffering become a war crime?
Today, on August 9, besides being the anniversary of Nagasaki’s incineration, the world remembers another controversial event—the death of Michael Brown of Ferguson, the now infamous little suburb of St. Louis. Regardless of what Mike Brown did or did not do to result in his death, we should all agree that African-Americans in the US still face discrimination and too many become lost by living amidst despairing poverty. At what point does the extent of suffering become a war cry?
St. Louis is still struggling with the results of Mike Brown’s battle cry. His story was a shout out loud that forced us to listen and think, to argue but hopefully learn something about ourselves, and maybe even to step out of our bubbles and actively work for a better world. Someone I love, a Caucasian-American mother of bi-racial children here, has her own stories to tell. With her permission, I am including this message she posted on Facebook this morning:
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I can’t sleep … It’s 4:00 in the morning on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and I can’t sleep. The weight of having a sweet, hardworking, smart and kind, but black husband and two loving, free spirited, happy but caramel babies has hit me like a ton of bricks. It has been coming. When we were first dating at 16, babies ourselves, and people would say, “but I worry about your kids.” Or when a client I was working with would notice the picture of my husband and I gazing into each other’s eyes on our wedding day and say, “but your husband is different.” Or just the other day when I had a brief conversation with a sweet mom, who has heard these same words, and now worries about sending her children to the elementary school I went to and that we recently moved near so my children could attend, because there are no other black kids in this part of the district. Or when a lady tells me she feels like she’s living in Ferguson because there were more black people at her gas station, having no idea the man I call home could have been filling up that day. When someone argues, “All lives matter.” I’m awake. I see it. And it’s exhausting. I do not know if we are brave enough to “be the change you wish to see in the world,” but we’re rolling, full steam ahead. Let’s do this thing.
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For a beautifully painted story that focuses on hope and healing and is suitable for all ages, you may like the book Painting for Peace in Ferguson by Carol Swartout Klein, an artist who grew up in Ferguson, Missouri.
Show us how through care and goodness
fear will die and hope increase.
-from the hymn “For the Healing of the Nations,” words by Fred Kaan