Thoughts on a Holiday
During the civil rights movement of the 1960’s I was too little, and way too sheltered, to be of much use. Even though Martin Luther King Jr. and I grew up in the very same city, his noble activities were something I only saw occasionally flash across a black and white television screen as I ran through the living room on my way outside to play. Ensconced in my leafy enclave where swing sets sat under tall trees and the ice cream truck sang its way down our street every afternoon round four, I was blissfully unaware of injustice, ignorant of racism, and oblivious to hate. It was very different across town. I know this now.
Whenever I watch the films of the civil rights marches I am always struck by the faces of the men holding the fire hoses. I compare them to the expressions worn by the men and women being thrown up against buildings and face down on streets by the force of the water shot towards them. Strangely, it is the perpetrators who wear the faces of hate. Self-righteousness twisted into thin-lipped, steel-eyed grimaces that perfectly illustrate the monstrosity of their wearer’s actions even as they manage to reveal the fear lurking just beneath the skin. For there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years since that time: fear is generally the precursor to hate.
There is much to fear today. This past year has been a ceaseless parade of unparalleled atrocities, played out on screens for all the world to see. It is cavalier not to be frightened of these brutal savages who slaughter the innocent before our very eyes. But like all dark emotions, fear lives next to neighbours capable of great damage. It can lead us to airless places where bitterness pulls the curtain down on hope and hatred slams the door to love. It can - slowly, almost imperceptibly - fashion an unrecognizable world.
Today on this day when we pause to remember the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., I am thinking it is easy, too easy, to hate those who commit these acts of barbarism across our world today. It is easy to stay in our homes and arm ourselves; easy to applaud the torture of our enemies, even as Christ called us to love them. It is temptingly easy to categorize man as good or evil and easy to banish the evil to hell. But in doing so, in taking this easy way out of the confusion and fear that we all must feel when faced with our current realities, what do we do to our culture? What do we do to our souls?
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars...
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”