Differently than this

(You can read more about the story here and here).

Over the weekend, an explosive controversy unfolded rapidly on social media responding to an incident Friday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. 
Groups of people gathered in the same place with different agendas, all operating on stereotypes, assumptions and prejudices.  And in the hours that followed, in the social media firestorm that was unleashed WE operated on stereotypes, assumptions and prejudices.  Here are some of the snap judgments that may have been in play: 
MAGA wearing, white males = perpetrators. 
Native American elder = wise. 
Black people = victims.  
It's Simple. 
Except the kids were shouting school spirit chants, trying to figure out their way through an overwhelming situation.  The Elder inserted himself in, trying to change the dynamic he thought was occurring, adding to the confusion and fear.  And the Black people were the ones yelling racial slurs and demeaning things at other groups - for two hours.  

Cue our heads exploding. 

Because when we first saw the images and clips, we thought we knew who we were supposed to support and stand with, and who we were allowed to judge, condemn and dismiss.  
And now it's not so simple.  
People didn't stay neatly  in their categories for us.

(And let's be honest - it felt like a delicious, righteous rage roiling inside to read the boy's smile as smug, arrogant, Trumpian assholery, didn't it?  We don't want to see a scared kid trying to communicate calm. I mean, look at his hat!).  We humans love having our stereotypes reinforced, and can barely stand - literally are thrown off balance - when they don't fit.

By Saturday we'd already crucified those kids.  Because apparently we are allowed to do the things we supposedly abhor – that is, judge, condemn, criticize, belittle, demean, and destroy - as long as we aim it at the right people. (But they’re not even people, right? Animals, monsters, idiots, let's call them).  
On Facebook I saw people I respect posting the children's personal information, school, church, parents' workplace, neighborhood, etc. Let's get them. Ruin their college changes. Make them PAY.  Maybe you or I would never stoop to issuing death threats, but someone did. You should DIE for showing disrespect. You are not worthy to live.  But we'll take the high ground.  We'll just say you are not worthy to be called a human being

We are the mob. 
We might as well have been in the scene shouting obscenities in their faces.  
Only that doesn’t have nearly the damaging impact of what we can inflict on them from behind our safe and self-righteous screens, does it? The power to punish, right at our fingertips. 


We all belong to God.  
Everyone in this scenario is a precious child of God. 
Everyone in this scene is acting out of desire to belong. 
Everyone in this scene is reacting to their own interpretations of what is happening in front of them.
Each person is working to figure out who they are and assert where they fit.  
Each person is trying to live out their humanity in a really, really messed up, broken system. 
We are all victims of this system. 
We are all perpetrators of this system. 
We are all culpable for what we’ve built and continue to reinforce.  


We all belong to each other. 
This is true and doesn't change. 
We are stuck with each other – all these different Americans! 
Even the ones we can't understand. 
Even the ones we can't relate to.
Even the ones we don't even like.  
Nevertheless, they are ours and we are theirs. We are responsible for each other. 
Those kids are our kids. That is our Native American Elder, and the small group shouting obscenities at everyone else, they’re ours too.  

Some of us are adults – meant to set an example, to teach, to guide. The elder, the Hebrew Israelites, you and I – we are the adults here.  We are responsible for the nation we are building for our kids.  
What kind of a country do we want to hand on?  
What kind of faith do we want to practice?  
What kind of humanity do we want to embody?

Let’s do this differently. 
I believe we can live differently than this.

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