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Archive for January, 2011

For several weeks, I’ve been in this ‘dry patch’ : feeling like I really had nothing I wished to comment on in this space.  I was not interested in yet another heartwarming Christmas story, more about Christmas cookie-baking (although I did that, for sure), or a kvetch about the materialism of the season (which I managed to duck, for the most part, blessed be).  And although I have done a lot of observing of the life taking place in the cold of winter (the Flicker that showed up at our window box bird feeder for the first time, along with the red-breasted woodpecker and the gorgeous cardinals, the squirrels eating the corn we put out, the mice that get into the house in the winter) it just didn’t seem to capture my full attention.

And then, this past weekend, I was jarred.  Many commentators have offered their opinions about the acts of violence which struck Tucson last weekend, killing six and injuring many more, including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  The finger pointing has started now, with the media noting that Sarah Palin’s Tea Party website had a gun sight pointed at Giffords’ district prior to the November election, that the “lock and reload” rhetoric, in the mind of a mentally ill individual, can translate into violence.  And the conservative pundits have started to apply their fingers to the side of their nose, shouting “not it” with energy…Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh among them.  Meanwhile many of us, observing the Greek tragedy that has left a 9 year old child, a federal judge, and four others dead, and Giffords and others fighting for life, plays out, with President Obama set to attend a public memorial service in Tucson tomorrow.  The House of Representatives, for its part, has delayed debate on repeal of the federal health care bill for a week, while some attempt to see if there is a way to encourage cooler heads to prevail.

It is all deeply disturbing.

More than a decade ago, the Unitarian Universalist Association published a series of social justice curricula for multiple ages called “In Our Hands.”  Authored by Rev. Stephen Shick and others, the curriculum focuses on valuing oneself and others, forming friendships with people different from us, examining how we care and share our beliefs and values with others, and ways to faithfully work for a peaceful and fair world.  Children are encouraged to imagine what the world might be like if these values were the ones that prevailed.  These values are carried forward in Unitarian Universalist faith development for older ages, including in the Coming of Age program that many of our 9th and 10th grade youth participate in, as youth explore good and evil, faithful choices, the values that are important in their lives.

My younger child, a product of this religious education, has reacted with deep sadness and dismay over the hideous acts committed in Tucson last weekend.  The Coming of Age youth who I help lead have had similar responses to such violence.  On Sunday night we spent a fair amount of time discussing choices and decision-making, to act for good or for ill.  Most of the youth in the room were clear that choice was central to the process of deciding to act.

I choose to believe that the shooter in the Tucson tragedy, Jared Loughner, was mentally ill and fell through the cracks of our social system because no one managed to get him help before disaster erupted from the gun he carried.  That there were heroic acts — by doctors and nurses on the scene, from a 20-year-old legislative intern who had worked for Ms. Giffords for one week — is evident and to be celebrated.  But the questions remain:  why did no one step forward to successfully get Loughner into treatment before he acted?  And why do we devolve into finger-pointing, name-calling, and too often, violence when we could instead go forward, with intentionality and respect, to share and air our differences?  And what do the children and youth of America, who are watching, take away from our actions?

This-coming weekend, we celebrate the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who offered lessons of non-violent social witness to us all, even as we remember that his life was ended by senseless, violent behavior.  We must not forget:  we have a choice.  We need not be silent.  When we resort to violence we put our society at peril.  We have a choice.  All this is in our hands.

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