Sunday, June 25, 2017

After the Violence Usually the Debris, But Not Always

A re-portrayal of Seneca Falls meeting.
During a trip to upstate New York, Brook and I stopped off to visit the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls. It's where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others had formative, first meetings in 1848. It would be 72 years before that translated into rights for women as voting citizens. 

The gestation of this movement is fascinating. It began, in part, when women abolitionists were rebuffed from having a say at the world's first anti-slavery convention in London. Women had the same fever over the sin of slavery but had to sit silently in the gallery during debate. On the return voyage from England, Lucretia Coffin Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used this indignity as energy for organizing.

The energy of the Women's Suffrage Movement, the rallies, the marches, the advocacy and the arrests were born of the violence perpetrated on them. 

That word, "violence", normally infers a physical injury, but violence--according to Webster--can have subtler forms as, "injury by distortion or infringement." Someone can grab your arm...or your rights; it still comes down to the same thing. 

(At this writing the Senate is contemplating removing millions of Americans from the Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act in the name of prudent fiscal policy. Their reason coincides with the conservative view of restricting how government interacts and provides social service. That might be academically reasonable--after all, if your rich enough life is about choices--but in reality millions of lower income Americans already have such social support. The "grab" or take-back of Medicaid allotments from millions of Americans will not pretty. Indeed, on a day-to-day level we will witness a certain violence to lives and health.)

As I addressed in titling this piece, violence can leave behind human debris. In other entries of this blog I've recorded visits to recuperative military hospitals in Germany and Walter Reed where brave women and men struggled to reclaim lives after an improvised explosive device (IED) injured a limb or brain. U.S. intervention in a foreign war has a new context after visiting these brave veterans. This could be that awful debris of unfulfilled lives.

But it's in those hospital rooms and adjacent hallways where the newly wounded military women and men practice their first moments of adjustment and living again. Those times are not that different from Elizabeth Cady Stanton's intention after being silenced and sent to that London gallery when important talk continued on in spite of them. Circumstances could have sidelined them. You're a wounded vet, so normal living isn't possible. You're a woman, so political action and full citizenship isn't possible. 

But this is the mystery of what violence brings because that dark force eventually runs out of energy. (Brook just reminded me of nature's rhythm that observes such energy coming and going like a wave, and, with that, follows an inevitable recoil.) In western terms, a space occurs in which we can realize what violence has done. Recognition of this takes some intention because we might witness a whole renewal of the violent cycle again. (Post traumatic stress can have a secondary bewilderment as we wait on the arrival of this insight.)

Or, we can live violence as small talk.
Am. Legion crowd after new officer induction.

Just today I met Eddie in front of the local American Legion Hall. A very nice guy, he and I, gray haired, settled into our war stories about Vietnam. It was OK but sentimentalizing about war and heroism becomes almost folk art by which we lull ourselves, trading camaraderie and comfort for facing the ugly truth of what we did. Such violent experiences should move us to something else beyond a mimic of trading ball scores. 

Too often the Church is like that for our culture. We'll talk about the awfulness of violence, almost like we're visiting the zoo. The terrible creatures of deadly force are "over there." 

As Rev. William J. Barber II sums it up for today's church, "do a little prayer, do a little worship, and do a little charity. That's pale Christianity." 

Rev. Barber's diagnosis? He recommends that the Church be the "moral defibrillator" for the culture. 

I would add, those paddles need to used on the Institution first. 

(I'm fully confident Christ's Body is healthy and beating somewhere.) +gep

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