“Shut up about Charlottesville” — a poem

photo credit: Rodney Dunning

I woke up around 5am with a mental frenzy.

Over the past days, news from Charlottesville, Virginia’s protests and counter-protests gnawed at me. Waves of anger, frustration, self-righteousness, and helplessness continued, as they have during other news cycles of unrest—a nearly insignificant discomfort in light of the suffering and pain others are experiencing from this trauma, let alone the background it emerges from.

I’ve read a variety of opinions, and I’m in touch with people in different spheres about the spiritual, justice, political, and societal implications of the ideologies and violence displayed in Charlottesville—particularly the white nationalism that motivated an act of terror which took an innocent life. All this from the removal of a Confederate statue—but then again, it ties to such engrained history, oppression, and racism, so it’s not surprising that outrage and action have spiraled to this magnitude.

Particularly befuddling has been the responses from well-meaning people, some people of faith, and how responses have been different than expected from those who boast allegiance to the creator and sustainer God of justice, whose image people of all colors bear.

As you think and talk and listen through this with your community, friends, and family, I hope you gain clarity and develop the empathy that seems so necessary yet largely ineffective or absent.

I’ve collected some thoughts from different people and shared them here:

Read: Less Arguments, More Empathy: Hear people of color on Charlottesville, white supremacy, church, and hope

Thinking and reflection on these things produced a poem I’ll share with you now.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Shut up about Charlottesville” — a poem

“This isn’t America”
shouts echo off buildings and blood-stained pavement.
“Racism has no place here”
confidently declared from states near and far
connected long ago by railroads built by underpaid foreign laborers
over water and soil abducted
from the only non-immigrants the land has known.

“Society is equal now”
say those whose families once owned other human beings.
“Racism is still a problem”
cry the families who lived by the law
only to lose unarmed sons to bad apples
that continue to fall from the tree.

“We will not be replaced”
shout those whose forebears
have never lacked opportunity
only grace.
“You can’t erase history”
protesting removal
as if the line vanished between
remembering history
and memorializing its demons.

Voices pile up like dry grass
and we all carry flames.
When will we set down torches
and talk through the night
catching glimpses of each other’s ragged humanity?
After we pause once naive but now ignorant
refrains of “All lives matter”
baptized well-meaning cliches
and meager attempts
if any
of empathy.

“Shut up about Charlottesville”
I remind myself
for my prompt opining feels true
until I step beyond the echo chamber
humbled yet welcomed to those night talks
where I find my place
which today
is to listen.
And then
what?

***

Read my piece on The Huffington Post: After Charlottesville’s Racism and Responses, Will More Evangelicals Listen and Learn?

Find more poetry here.

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