Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The National Holiday


The National Holiday

There will be no mail in my mail box on Monday. 
The banks will be closed and admittance to all national parks will be free. 
The kids get a day off from school.
  My country is pausing to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

  Growing up in the southern part of the US, in the same city as Dr. King in fact, it is astonishing to compare our society today with that of my early childhood.  When I see documentaries of that not so long ago time, it is like watching films of another world, one I lived in, but was too young, too white and too sheltered, to have realized was in some corners so treacherous and evil.  When I see the fire hoses and police dogs, when I read the hateful rhetoric, it is stunning to see the changes Dr. King was able to bring about with his righteous, consistent message of nonviolence.  It is humbling to compare the hateful, angry faces of the men wielding the fire hoses with the silent dignity of those getting blasted off their feet.  Even with stakes as high as basic rights of human equality and worth, still Dr. King eschewed violence, saying, “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals”.   When we hold aloft the light of Dr. King’s remarkable accomplishments to illuminate our country’s almost casual relationship to violence today, it is a sobering sight indeed.
  
In this week leading up to the King holiday, in the state of Florida, one man pulled out a gun and fatally shot the fellow sitting in front of him at a neighbourhood theatre.  Seems the man was irritated that the fellow wouldn’t stop texting his young daughter during the previews of upcoming attractions and after a few heated words, when the father put his phone down and threw some popcorn at the man, the man pulled out a gun and shot, killing the father right in front of his wife who was seated next to him.  There is now speculation that the shooter will try to use Florida’s controversial, and some would say, notorious, “stand your ground” law as he’s saying he shot the man because he felt threatened.  If that story wasn’t horrifying enough, one of my own state senators is attempting to get a bill passed in our senate that would allow worshipers to carry guns into churches.  A more blatant oxymoron is difficult to conceive.  

Although it perhaps rubs against our national reputation, I have no problem saying I have zero affection for guns.  The gun lobby in this country is so frighteningly powerful it has consistently managed to derail any kind of regulation on guns, even following the horrifying gun murders of twenty schoolchildren and six of their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012.  There have been thirty school shootings in this country in the short year and one month since.  Thirty.  I cannot comprehend this, and if change cannot be brought about in any sort of effective way, I cannot comprehend the inevitable escalation of violence we are certain to witness, from our schools to our movie theatres, even to our churches.   

It has never been a secret that ignorance holds hands with fear.  This was true during the horrible days when Dr. King was locked up in Birmingham jail for preaching basic equality among human beings and it remains true today when a state senator feels his constituents need guns to feel safe in church.  As Barbara Kingsolver writes in her comforting book of essays, Small Wonders, “The people who said the sky would fall and God would weep if their sons and daughters had to sit in the same schoolroom as black-skinned children were wrong.”  The popular belief that nothing can be done about the proliferation of guns in our country might just be wrong as well.

 I freely admit I have no clear answers, or rather the answers I have are never the bombastic ones shouted at us by the people more certain than wise.  My answers, when I discover them, are the quiet ones found in the simplicity of showing kindness and love, as often and as much as I can.  I find a bit of sagacity in doing unto others as I would be done by, as far as my sphere of influence reaches.  Answers of comfort call to me from the soft susurration of wings that Edward and I were privileged to hear overhead as a triangle of Canada geese flew just above us on a cold and otherwise silent afternoon last week.  Like a blind man reading braille, my fingers trace the edges of a spring-green maple leaf, or down the crocodile bark of a pine tree, and find a bit of inarticulate wisdom there. I have lived long enough to know that God is in the details and the answers I find there continue to provide me with that elixir so vital to one of God’s children today, one Dr. King never seemed to run low on:  Hope.
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Barbara Kingsolver's book of essays, Small Wonders, can be found HERE.
An excellent, thoughtful read which never fails to bring me comfort.

22 comments:

  1. I loved this post - so sensitive and honest. Living outside the USA means not understanding the incredible power of the gun lobby. The accessibility of guns terrifies me and I am appalled at the notion that the only way to be safe is to be armed...

    But there is hope as your post demonstrates with the example of Martin Luther King. I too remember seeing those brutal images on television.

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  2. Good for you coming out fair and square against guns!
    Yes, so much has changed during our lifetime -and much of it for the good -at least in terms of how people treat one another. Can you remember when no one took much notice if a man beat his wife? When they arrested homosexuals?
    Another thoughtful essay.....and now for a US version of the National Health.
    All best wishes.

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  3. I just recently discovered your blog and I love it! I spent 23 years of my life in Georgia--Athens and Atlanta--and when I go back to visit after being away for 20 years I cannot believe the changes either. It takes diversity to have creativity blossom. Love your writing and your views. --Susan in SLC

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  4. i live in a state that is called now ...
    "open carry"
    it is frightening beyond belief.
    we might as well be back in the days of the old wild west where they swaggered around wearing them on their hip.
    with tempers that escalate to the degree of the man in the theater... it's a wonder there are not more incidences like that.
    sad and demoralizing in the extreme.
    thank you for this beautifully written (as always whatever the subject) post.
    kindness is the key. yes. it is.
    love,
    tammy j

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  5. Such insightful words. As someone who lives outside of the USA, but has close friends there, I cannot wrap my head around the thought process of the gun lobby. Utterly baffling.

    Martin Luther King is a man to honour for his convictions that led to so much good change.

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  6. Beautifully put. Thank you.

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  7. There is so much hatred and prejudice in the world Pamela and it never seems to go away - it just moves around. That is one of the wonderful things about dogs = they don't show any - they only give unconditional love - if only we could do the same.

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  8. As always, Pamela, you crystalize the events of a half a century ago with the events of today in a most meaningful, sensitive, and awesome manner. Thank you.

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  9. Such a wise and beautifully written post. Thank you...I cried a few tears at the end.

    I grew up in the South during the civil rights struggle and like you, was mostly protected from it until I got into high school in the late 60s.

    My memories of those times are so tender. All the assassinated leaders - JFK, RFK, Malcolm X and MLK offered messages of equality and hope.

    In terms of gun violence, an amazing woman, school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff embodies and the power of the non-violence taught by MLK. Ms Tuff defused a potentially bloody school shooting situation by communicating with the shooter with empathy and love, sharing her problems and feelings with him and telling him she loved him and that he would be OK. She successfully disarmed the man and coninced hm to surrender to police. No one was hurt in the incident.

    This happened in Decatur, Georgia in August last year and exemplifies the ethos of MLK beautifully. And it brings me hope.

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  10. Violence is rampant because we, as a society, do nothing about it. It permeates the media, the culture, and the entertainment we so casually shrug off. If someone wants to commit an act of violence, he won't need a gun. Witness Timothy McVey. You and I have been around long enough to have seen the progression from a society that would have been appalled to even think about someone killing schoolchildren . . . to a society that says, "Oh, dear. Another school shooting", while it turns the channel. The frequency of people committing heinous acts has nothing to do with their ability to shoot vs. create a bomb. Murder is murder no matter the object used to cause it. The reasons, the disconnect, the pathological need to hurt others is what we, as a society, had better focus on and find ways to fix. I'm betting the guy in FL would not have been able to carry a gun into the theater before the kid in CO decided to shoot moviegoers. That doesn't get the guy in FL off the hook. He chose to commit murder. Not manslaughter. Murder. But it isn't the fault of the gun.

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  11. Thank you for that beautifully written post. I am in complete agreement. And while guns themselves can't kill people, I hold the gun culture responsible for our country becoming ever more violent. It's the mentality that says having and using guns will solve problems instead of causing them that is so ridiculous. The idea that you must "stand your ground" by using violence is terrible. As Martin Luther King said, "Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."

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  13. Beautifully said. I agree. I read somewhere that our gun laws today are more lenient than they were in the days of the wild west. Frontier towns usually had laws prohibiting anyone but law officers from carrying guns in public. We're going backwards! The new legislature in my state has now passed laws where guns can be carried into parks and playgrounds. The idea that freedom equals guns has become so entrenched I don't know how it will change. Sigh. We must practice kindness in our own little worlds.

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  14. Pamela,
    Thank you for this poignant essay. I am always moved by the way you can put into words an understanding view of topics that create such hateful discourse on television and from politicians. Like you, I am no fan of guns and being a moderate person, I understand someone's desire to own one. When those people can't see a reason to place some control on selling guns, even after so many children have died, I believe they must be ignorant, how else can their reluctance to control such a potentially deadly weapon be justified? I too find hope to be a beacon and in my own personal world to share love and understanding where there seems to be none. Thank you for always sounding hopeful.
    Karen

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  15. Thank you. You touch my heart with your beautiful words. MLK Day is often observed with snarky words - I stood up to someone today and my reward is reading your inspiring post. Thank you with all my heart.

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  16. Agree with Holly. The Bible tells us how wicked, evil and self-centered people will be in the end times. Can it get much worse?

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  17. I think it's been a couple of years since I visited your blog! I love this post, so eloquent and thought provoking and so very true!
    Hugs to you and Edward.xxx

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  18. Beautifully said. I, too, live in Georgia and my heart is saddened at the turn this great, beautiful state has taken due to its leadership. I grew up in rural Southwest Georgia during the 50s and 60s. I did see the inequities and remember the attempts at peaceful protests in Albany and Americus which were met with force. As a young girl I did not understand the significance, however, my views were shaped by the recognition of these events and the treatment of the African-American community. Thank you for so eloquently writing about these issues. Blessings...Susan

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  19. Thank you. I, too, have zero tolerance for guns. My boys didn't have guns to play with. We need to restrict access to all forms of gun ownership. Until Congress cannot be influenced by special interest groups and hate-mongers, we will never have government by the people and for the people. Thank you for speaking up regarding this important issue.
    Mary

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  20. It's not guns that kill people. It's people with guns that kill people. The USA needs to get a handle on this. The mentality of these gun owners is such a "macho" thing. We need controls on ownership. We need background checks. We need lots of things. Why would the NRA even object to these changes? Ignorance.....until it happens to their child.....

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  21. A moving tribute to MLK and a wise link to gun control. I'm a fan of Barbara Kingsolver too.

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  22. It is so important for all of us who are concerned about the proliferation of guns in our society to speak up as you have so thoughtfully done. We have our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to regard. I fear we are living history as we see our beloved country lose its integrity in the gun issue. Well done, Pamela.

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