America, we need to talk.
We need to talk about a lot of things.
We need to talk about racism,
and gun violence,
and manipulative media,
and Confederate flags,
and partisan politics,
and white privilege,
and religious extremism,
and mental health.
We need to, but apparently we can’t because we’ve been told so.
The decision of silence has been made for us:
“It’s too soon.”
“That’s not the real issue here.”
“The timing isn’t right.”
“That won’t prevent what happened in Charleston.”
This is simply no longer acceptable.
If now is not the time, just when in God’s name is it time?
What is the tipping point in human life where dialogue becomes permissible?
When is there enough blood spilled to merit everything having to be held up to the raking light of examination?
Nine beautiful African-American people are gunned down;
by a young white male claiming racial hatred as his sole motive,
with a gun his father legally purchased for him,
in a state still flying a flag loaded with a bloody history,
through a brutal execution distorted in every possible fashion by biased media outlets and polarizing pundits and opportunistic politicians—
and we can’t talk about any of it?
Not good enough, my friends; not by a long shot.
Our country is terribly broken and no one here is qualified to decide what topics are off-limits as we try together to fix it. The whole sick, hateful, damaged, hemorrhaging thing is on the table.
It has to be.
Injustice is never remedied when people of power or privilege or position shut down the discussion.
In the space of that forced silence, any wounds that exist only fester and spread until the whole thing becomes toxic; until the hatred metastasizes and nothing is left un-poisoned.
Our country is so afflicted.
And so we are rebelling against your suggested silence today. We are respectfully but surely defying it.
We are declaring without ambiguity that one side does not get to quiet the other.
If you love guns, you alone don’t get to decide that they aren’t part of the problem of violence.
If you are white, you don’t get to determine whether or not people of color aren’t still victimized by institutional racism.
If you fly a Confederate flag, you don’t solely get to decide whether it connotes history or hatred beyond your front yard.
If you patronize partisan media, you don’t get the final word about whether or not it is nurturing hateful hearts.
We all decide that together.
This is how this Democracy thing works:
It invites opinion.
It celebrates discussion.
It finds beauty in the exchange of many ideas for the common good.
It recognizes urgency and responds immediately.
Whatever is worth preserving about America, was formed in the crucible of conversation; in the difficult, uncomfortable times and spaces where dissenting and diverse voices met and where compromise was reached.
That is our country’s calling card in the world, or at least it is supposed to be.
And so we are going to talk about it; all of it.
Those of us interested in being agents of healing are going to loudly ask every question and raise every possibility and speak every hidden fear and slaughter every sacred cow, because if we don’t do that in this day, we know that we will be mutually complicit in the violence of the days that follow.
You can opt out, but know that you will not do it with clean hands.
If you choose not to engage in this conversation now (whether or not you want to admit it) you will be willing accomplices to coming suffering.
When another Charleston or Ferguson or Baltimore or Sandy Hook happens—that blood will be thick on your hands.
This is the cost of your silence now; of procrastinating away dialogue.
Its toll is life. It is paid for by the blood of others, in the next horrific news story.
That is why we who seek hope in the future will demand discussion now.
We will invite all those willing to shape a solution to the wounds of this nation, into a true conversation without agenda or limit or caveat or boundaries.
That is what Humanity does, and open, passionate, messy, dialogue is the table of Grace where it meets.
Silence may be your aspiration, but for us it is no longer an option.
Too much life has been lost, too many memorial services held, too much damage done.
We have no peace, with your quiet.