1968

So here I am on the last day of April trying to stick to my commitment to post at least once a month to this blog. It’s been a challenge to do it since the re-launch. I used to have so much to say and now apparently, I don’t.

Anyway, I’ve been watching some retrospectives on TV commemorating the fifty-year anniversary of the significant events of 1968. The year factors largely in a novel I wrote during my hiatus from blogging. (It’s unpublished which is why I haven’t mentioned it before now but it is copywritten.) In one chapter the main characters talk about how they felt as children witnessing some of what was going on in 1968. I was a child then too and the TV programs reminded me of how I channeled my feelings into those of my characters. It was an impactful time, even for children. Since I can’t think of anything else to write about, I decided  I’d share a little of the chapter with you. If you like it, maybe I’ll post more from the novel later.

fire-flame-man-105541

 

“I’ll tell you, it was some year, sixty-eight. Crazy. John dying in his crib like that.  Mom and Dad both wildin’ out and on top of all of it, half of Baltimore burning up in the Holy War Uprising. Yeah, it was crazy.” As Thomas gestured with his drink in his hand, his eyes filled with long past images. He, Junior and Judi thought back to the Baltimore riots of 1968 and their collective memory was one of fire. Memories of the glow of the TV screen in the living room of the homestead as David Sr. and Ella sat on the sofa, watching the pictures of everything burning. They remembered the way Ella, her pregnant belly touching the cushions, squeezed David’s hand and whispered, “Damn, that’s right where your cousin lives.” The kids had turned and looked at Ella wide-eyed because cussing was their father’s forte, something in which their mother rarely engaged. But it frightened them the most when David said, “It looks like hell.”  After a solemn dinner that night, the three siblings had huddled together in the playroom wondering which sins had caused the troubles and whether the hell fires would get them too.  The memory faded and the spell was broken by David Jr’s deep voice.

“Ain’t that much different around here now Tom, and um, you’d know if you didn’t live in a gated community.” Thomas was ready for his big brother’s taunts.  To him David Jr. was like Baltimore City, still vital but a little rough around the edges. The oldest sibling wasn’t the big, bad brother he’d been when they were younger. He hadn’t been since Thomas entered the meat and potatoes of his adulthood, the years that had brought the reality of negotiating a good career, marriage and parenthood as a middle-class black man. Thomas set down his glass and scratched the hair on his chest through his starched blue business shirt and undershirt.  

     “Ok, that’s true Dave but back then black folks weren’t just rioting because they were mad like they do now.  Everybody in this neighborhood and for that fact in black neighborhoods around the country were talking about Black Power. And it was all over the news so we saw all those pictures of raised fists on the TV when Mom was trying to herd us up to bed after dinner, remember? Matt, we know you and Ruth were too little to remember but I’m telling you it felt like something real would jump off at any minute.  Even at five I knew something big was going on.  It scared me, it really did,” Thomas said.

©Kat Tennermann, 2016

##

(Photo by Ivan Cujic from Pexels)

 

I Don’t Know but I Have Faith

PD-OLD-100
Image from Wikimedia

I was reading in the newspaper today about the recent sectarian violence in Turkey and Pakistan. I was thinking about how much tribal, factional, “us” vs. “them” violence still happens all the time all over the world. It doesn’t just happen in places where we Americans can point and say, “What’s the matter with them?” It happens in this country too. (How many gay youths have been bullied or beaten recently and remember the massacre of six worshipers at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee?) I guess it’s been uppermost in my mind lately because a spiritual practice group I belong to is having an event in remembrance of Dr. King in a few days. There will be discussions during the event and two of the themes are, “the goal of interracial, global Christian fellowship” and “the pursuit of justice as a holy calling.”

In light of the violence, I asked myself if true interracial, global fellowship (Christian or otherwise) and therefore peace, is actually possible.  And given peoplekind’s penchant for using  “otherness” as a reason for inequity and for that matter, elimination, can the pursuit of justice ever be consistent with a goal of peace and fellowship?

Sometimes I fear, in my more pessimistic moments, that the only way we’ll have peace and justice is by the “Day the Earth Stood Still” model; that is if we’re forced into it by beings much wiser than ourselves.  That would achieve peace and begrudging justice but that couldn’t be called fellowship, could it? It’s more than just my being disheartened and saying, “Oh, the fate of the world!” It’s because I belong to a faith community now and if we’re going to talk the talk I wonder if it is really possible for us to walk the walk. Do even people of faith fear deep down that our human nature negates the possibility?  I was around during Dr. King’s ministry and at that time many people were fast and loose with the use of the words peace and justice. They became rallying cries for assorted social and political agendas. Unfortunately, many times those agendas didn’t include “others”. Are we still throwing the terms around?  Are these discussions really meaningful to us in the context of our modern world views?  Are we simply having them because it’s MLK’s birthday and we think it’s what we’re supposed to talk about at the interfaith events and prayer breakfasts?

Image from Wikimedia

I went to one of my favorite sources of lucidity and insight in these matters, Richard Rohr. (https://cac.org)  In his book “Breathing Underwater” he says, ‘…a system of retributive justice (author’s italics) …has controlled the story line of 99 percent of history. It seems history could not see what it was not ready to see; but in our time more and more are ready and willing to understand. One cannot help but believe there is an evolution of human and spiritual consciousness.” He goes on to say that there are many theories (like Spiral Dynamics) that describe the evolution and they “are recognizing that history is moving forward, even if by fits and starts, and even many steps backwards.” (pg 39) I wonder if Dr. King would believe that now. When I think about his agenda I wonder if he would think the fits and steps backwards are too large to move past. But then I think, of course he would have the kind of faith Fr. Rohr has.

I want to have that kind of faith. I want to believe the theories and research are correct. I want to believe that the conversations my community is having aren’t just because it’s MLK’s birthday but because they are a manifestation of our evolution.

I guess that has to be a component of my faith, believing that the process of working toward peace and justice is important even without the expectation of witnessing the eventual success.