Imagine it’s Easter morning.
Imagine you and your family are getting ready to go to Sunday service for the biggest celebration of the year. You’re dressed in your best, and you are in solidarity with all other Christians throughout the world who are celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.
You sit down and turn on the TV to kill time as your family gets ready. You flip channels, and they’re all talking about the same thing. You hear about an attack on the Vatican. Imagine the shock, the confusion, the hurt. Imagine someone then saying it was done in the name of Christianity.
Now you may have an inkling of what it felt like to be a Muslim when their holy city of Medina was attacked during their holy month of Ramadan.
Now imagine you’re stopped by the police and you have to explain everything you do or are about to do. A child is in the car with you. She sees a gun aimed at your boyfriend. She sees blood. You feel obliged to tape everything so there’s proof of what happened. Can you understand what Philando Castile’s last moments were like?
Imagine you’re called into work to take care of an emergency. You get up and you do it. It’s your job after all. Imagine crowds of people giving you dirty looks because of the badge you wear. Imagine protecting them anyway. Imagine hearing shots. Imagine one of them hitting someone you’ve worked with for years. This was real life in Dallas yesterday.
Our problem isn’t just too many guns,too much racism and too much ignorance, although I do believe that those factors contributed to the crises of the past few days. It seems like the first question we ask when one of these disasters happens – whether it’s a terrorist attack or a shooting or an attack on the police – is “Whose fault is it?”
What if instead of looking for blame, the first question we asked was “What if it were me?”
What if it were my faith that was attacked?
What if it were my daughter who witnessed a man die?
What if it were my brother, husband, sister, wife, who was killed in the line of duty?
What if it were me who heard doors lock every time I walked by?
What if I had to work twice as hard to get half of the respect?
What if I were afraid that I’d be spit on for holding the hand of a loved one?
What if I didn’t know if I’d make it home when I put on my badge?
We come from a long history of fighters who did it the right way.
John Lewis risked his life for the sake of the civil rights movement.
Fr. Gregory Boyle works with gangs in LA to bring everyone into the circle of kinship.
Mohandas K Gandhi fought for the truth and saw dignity in every human being.
Nelson Mandela earned the respect of his jailers to the pint where they would only address him as “Sir.”
I look at these leaders and look at us now and wonder if they would ask themselves, “What did I do that for?”
If people are still killing each other, why risk my life? Why fight so hard? Why is our society moving backwards when we worked so hard to move it forward?
To be honest, I’m in a situation where I feel terrified yet again.
I’m terrified that my black friends can’t walk down the street without worrying that they will be hurt.
I’m terrified that my friends in law enforcement won’t come home.
I’m terrified that if it doesn’t stop, one day it’s going to be me who’s afraid to go out and walk down the street.
I would hope that we’d do something now to prove that the sacrifices of Lewis and Mandela and Gandhi and Boyle are not in vain. They knew something that we have yet to understand:
It’s not an uprising we need. We’ve already had plenty those. What we need is to acknowledge is that we belong to each other. We need compassion. We need to be willing to place ourselves in the shoes of those who threaten us. We need to ask the tough questions: Why are they angry? Would I be angry in their situation? What can we do to move forward? Because if we just continue to point fingers and refuse to be compassionate, there will be another attack. There will be another shooting. Another family will be broken as they bury a loved one.
Within a few weeks, perhaps the hashtags will stop. Police barricades will disappear. People will start posting about their dogs and what they ate for dinner again. We’ll continue with our daily lives until someone else dies. The cycle will continue. And it’s not even a question of what if one day it’s me? It’s a question of when will it be me?
Or we can choose another way. We can choose to see each other for who we are and choose to support one another not just when blood is spilled in the streets. We can choose to see that that blood is our blood. We can choose to love every day.