I was away last week, taking some study leave to complete a couple writing projects. I’m holed up in a little farm house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My colleagues and I awoke the first morning to three inches of fresh snow. This fertile land was silenced in white, a gray steam rising off the Choptank River, which crawled underneath the lifeless cold a hundred feet away.
After a few people asked why I was going to participate in the Women’s March on Charlotte, and why was it called a "March for Women" as opposed to a "March for All", I decided that I needed to respond. So I have taken portions of emails I wrote in response to those questions and turned them into this blog post. I am very well aware that everyone that marched will answer the question differently. I can only tell my story. -Amy
In the fall of 1976 I put on a pair of those silly men-in-tights pants, strapped on enough shoulder pads to double my body weight, fitted a helmet, melted a plastic mouthpiece to form-fit to my teeth, and for two years playing football for the Bell Street Middle School Wildcats was central to my identity.
Because he believed Hated Hillary was actually running a child sex ring, that somehow had not been detected, despite her being under unrelenting, continual surveillance, he took a loaded, automatic rifle to a public restaurant, and started shooting.
This unbelievable episode is now cause for a frantic discussion of “fake news” and potential cures for this new, dangerous social ill. Media and sociology and psychology experts from around the country are offering their erudite opinions on what we can do about this new, dangerous trend.
It all went dark.
My eyes instantly began burning and my throat felt like I swallowed a flame. I was able to open my eyes just long enough to see a hand reaching out for mine. Rachel, a young African American whom I befriended on my walk toward city center, had one hand covering her eyes and the other reaching out. I grabbed on tightly and assured her I was there.
Today is the International Day of Peace.
And now chaos has come to our own Queen City here in Charlotte, NC. But it didn't just arrive 24 hours ago. It's been brewing here like it brews everywhere. Yesterday it just became clear and plain for all to see.
And so, when we don't know what else to do, we gather.
Just recently someone told me he had become a Republican after the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter, because the 39th president of the land had destroyed my friend’s life-long commitment to the other side of the aisle.
You don’t have to remind me of mortgage rates in those days and the Panama Canal and the Iran hostage affair. I was only in elementary school, but I remember the news and have read some history. Still, it always hurts me to hear people disparage one of the best men who ever held the office.
I didn’t say one of the savviest politicians, most conniving strategists, or best deal-makers. I said one of the best men to ever hold the office.
Funny thing, I think character actually matters for our national leaders.
It didn’t matter when I was a 5th grader that a Christian Sunday school teacher from Georgia was running for the highest office in the land as a Democrat. I probably could not have told you what party he represented, and I certainly had no idea what a party platform was. What I knew was that he was a man who loved God and cared for other people.
Funny thing, character was all that mattered to a naïve southern boy who loved Jesus and America.
Last night “the only man who has ever used the presidency as a stepping stone to greater things” spoke to an interracial gathering of pastors. I can’t remember who said that, but it’s a high compliment to the indefatigable 91 year-old, who is using his “golden years” to continue traveling the globe to eradicate guinea worms in Africa and advocate for peace with world leaders and write 29 books and lecture from Harvard to Emory and be a father and grandfather to 22 and build Habitat houses for poor Americans.
And then come home most Sundays to still teach his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church.
That character thing is actually not so funny, and maybe Americans ought to steadfastly demand it of our leaders – especially since “party” matters very little these days. Most Americans admit their vote is usually cast against one person, rather than for the other candidate.
Maybe Americans are looking for character, not platforms.
In his brief message to the New Baptist Covenant the Democratic ex-president inspired me again –not by his partisan politics, but by the content of his character. I wish I had that experience more often when I hear leaders speak.
Carter reflected on four years in office, when no bombs were dropped from any US military plane. He discussed the extension of a war in Afghanistan that now represents the longest military engagement in US history. He commented that most current political rhetoric seems resigned to admit a footing of perpetual war.
He talked of the oligarchy we have become, especially in the wake of the “stupid” SCOTUS ruling called Citizens’ United. Money is all that matters when “legal bribery” is the name of the game, not “liberty and justice for all.”
He remembered the 15-minute inaugural address he gave and the only two promises he made to the US people: a promise to keep the country at peace (which he did), and to pursue peace for people around the world, and a promise to strengthen civil rights (both of which he is still pursuing tirelessly). And he observed how inconceivable it would be in today’s environment for a candidate of any political affiliation to mention any of those words in a campaign.
They say some things never change. Unfortunately, some things do.
So, change your party if you’d like, or change back if you must, but stick with character. In the end, it’s all that matters.
Hi there. This is weird, I know, but this is a letter from your 38-year-old self, written twenty years in the future.
I have timed this letter to arrive to you on August 14, 1996, which is a Wednesday during your first full week of classes at the University of Tennessee. You have a roommate you’re still not sure you can trust, and suite mates you knew from high school that you’re glad to have. Flip your expectations, buddy. Let this be the first of many lessons not to judge before you have experience.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America‘s most beautiful byways. From this mountain crest the views into Virginia and North and South Carolina open to untold miles of raw wilderness and over the quaint hamlets nestled in the valleys below. Those views are expansive – unless you are driving 18 (white-knuckled) miles-per-hour, straining through a wet, heavy fog for a glimpse of the double-yellow line that stretches the pavement just below your front, left bumper.
From Amy Jacks Dean, Co-Pastor Park Road Baptist Church:
This Sunday, as we do every Sunday, I will share with the Park Road congregation our Assurance of Pardon:
"You are loved. You are forgiven. BE AT PEACE."
But how in the world can we be at Peace after watching the videos of the shooting of black members of our human family, followed by anger boiling into a rage that lets loose a random retaliation killing of innocent police officers?
God, forgive us. And God help us.
As a preparation for worship this Sunday, perhaps we can all start ahead of time praying our Prayer of Confession for Sunday:
"We live in the shadow of peace, O God, but too often we face the shadow and not the light. We pray for peace today because we know we are not a whole people without it. Forgive us our warring madness, our abuse of power, and our disregard of the rights of others. Lift from us the burden of the need always to be in control. Teach us the ways of mutual love for all people. Help us to give peace a chance. Amen."
— Paul B. Robinson
Once again we have suffered a national tragedy that is as foolish as it is horrendous. Compounding the heartbreak is the fact that it may have been as preventable as it was predictable.
There’s a lot that could be learned from Orlando, however, we’ve shown we’re not interested in learning from these tragedies, though they are an embarrassment to any people who claim to be free.
That's all that needs to be said, isn't it?
There is no other nation on the face of the earth, across all human history, that has had to report to its people with such frightening regularity that another of its sad, sick, twisted citizens, has decided to solve his problems, or speak for his “God,” and has found an omnipotent voice through the barrel of a gun.
And this time of the year, with birdsongs reminding us of the rebirth of spring, as the buzz of pent-up winter energy begins bursting at the seams, the Baptist minister evolved into my bones begins to hear another sacred sound.
It’s the call of the Harley – a rumbling reverence that is born of the need to ride like the wind, to free our spirits to the call of the open road, to embark on a journey to anywhere or nowhere, a journey which is its own destination. So I polish a little chrome and don black leather and let it roar – well, usually just to church and back, but it still speaks to my soul!