Race, Police, Community and Spirit
I feel great pain watching events unfold across our country related to police brutality and race especially in Baltimore. With some very important differences, it is very reminiscent of 1968. Assassinations, the Vietnam War, protests, riots flooded our country. Many of us felt that the world was being blown apart. Now it seems that the progress we made in civil rights, justice and inclusiveness are being blown apart. My heart aches.
In all of this the spiritual perspective requires three things:
1. Stepping back so that the broader perspective can be seen,
2. Looking in the mirror into one’s heart,
3. Speaking truth to power.
When I step back, disengaging from personality and its fears, it is possible to see that this experience may be the birth pangs of a new world. The contractions of rebirth are found in the chaos. Anarchy is an invitation to move into our collective heart and soul. Just as there is no separation between sacred and secular, or spiritual and worldly, there is no separation between chaos and Divine. Spirit is in all of this. All things emerge from the Divine. This chaos emerges from the Divine as a challenge to wake up.
As I look into my own heart, I see my own inner thug, brick thrower and policeman. And more importantly in this situation, I see my own inner person who denies and does not want to deal with this, who says “It can’t possibly be this bad.” I really just want someone in authority to solve the problem. I want to meditate, enter the bliss of the Divine, work and be happy. But there are too many stories, too many lives have been lost. It is time to step forward.
Speaking truth to power is complex. I want to do this without creating enemies and opponents. I do not want to repeat the mistake of those of us opposed to the Vietnam War when soldiers were turned into enemies. Neither the police nor the protesters are our enemy.
It is clear that a large segment of our population feels disenfranchised and disempowered. That segment remains in fear of law enforcement for legitimate reasons. Police too often exhibit their own form of lawlessness. If this is not dealt with our country will descend more deeply into a repressive police state or chronic, violent civil unrest.
Every community has its share of punks, jerks and thugs. I have seen people of all races, genders, ages and orientations act in violent and disrespectful fashion and take pride in provoking police. The police community also has its share of punks, jerks and thugs. I have seen instances of that group behaving in astonishingly bizarre fashion. It is at times as though they think they are above the law. Police have the most difficult responsibility in our land. They deal with more negative energy than almost any other group. And at times they are seduced by it.
There are over 500,000 police in our country. They are a private army. The overwhelming number of individuals on any police force are honest and humane. And they must take their community back from the thugs who happen to be in a blue uniform. The blue wall which the police have erected between themselves and the people they serve needs to be torn down. The police need to police themselves. If they don’t their sanctimonious sense of privilege will be shredded just as the Roman Catholic Church experienced. Those groups did not police themselves and it cost them dearly.
The elders of Baltimore took their community back as they stood in front of the police the day after the riots. The elders protected each group from each other. The police can do the same.
In contrast to the police in Ferguson, the Baltimore police reacted with considerable restraint. Consequentially the community could work with them and stand with them. Quite honestly (looking in the mirror) a part of my reaction at times was a desire to have the police surge forward crack some skulls, arrest thousands and break lots of limbs of the brick throwers. There is only one thing that would have been accomplished by that. The soothing of my own inner thug. Fortunately, wiser people were in charge.
The Divine moved in the community when elders stood with and for the police. She moves in the community when police power is restrained. Spirit moved in the community when a mother dragged her son home by the scruff of the neck of his hoodie asserting the primacy of parental responsibility. Spirit moved in the daylong celebration of thousands of Baltimore residents affirming that “black lives matter.” AND Spirit moved as the overwhelming majority of the participants went home before curfew.
Baltimore will quiet down. But this issue will remain until we address it. The issue and the opportunity will not go quietly away. Spirit will not abandon us. She keeps giving us opportunity to recover our forgotten wholeness.