Again I am sitting in this little farm house on the banks of the Choptank River, just outside of Easton, MD. The calm is as amazing now as when I was here in February for a few days of writing. There is no snow today, but the water is glass. Hardly a sound breaks the still, humid air.
It’s as if all is well in the world.
But, as in February, all is not well. And just as it was in February, too much of it swirls around the White House. In a February 7 blog post I wrote: “There’s no escaping the madness. News seeps in, even into our pristine escape… [the chaos is] here to stay.”
It is the new normal.
My emotions are raw as I try to write. I just watched a clip from the introduction of last night’s “Tonight Show,” with Jimmy Fallon saying, “We cannot not speak…”
And so I speak – fearful as ever in this season of the new normal that my words will be heard as partisan. They are not. There is nothing “Republican” about moral equivocations comparing the violence of the KKK itself with the righteous anger that erupts when good people show up to disapprove.
I do not associate a lack of willingness to speak decisively or the lack of ability to speak definitively with any political party. I am speaking as a pastor, but my vocation has both “priestly” and “prophetic” functions.
Out of that priestly function, I might suggest that the nation is so bitterly divided that we need acknowledge the President cannot win. (Could any?) Many on the Left were glad not to miss a single second before raining down dismissive insults. Many on the Right were quick to justify the equivocations. The whole sad spectacle turning a national disaster, deserving of our grief and response, into a political contest.
The “politics” only widens the divide, feeds our cynicism, and dulls our moral conscience. But the “prophetic” in me dares to note that there could hardly be a better opportunity to speak with absolute clarity and vision than we just witnessed in Charlottesville. As someone noted, even 140 characters is more than enough.
My deep sadness is that, like so many others, I am utterly heartbroken to have to acknowledge that I live in a country that still bears witness to – and in unforgivable ways still fosters and fuels — the bigotry of KKK hatred. I cannot fathom anything as vile, and I am sickened that we have so abused the notion of “freedom” that we still must tolerate those who are completely enslaved by their own shallow fears. It is a pathetic image of a 21st century America.
America’s moral leadership has failed us for many years – hate-filled protests and the resulting violence is all the proof we need. But if the President’s response to Charlottesville is an indication of his best effort to name that which we will not tolerate and to unite the people with vision – and if others will not fill that leadership void – the violence will grow worse.
I am trying to speak out, to take responsibility for my failure to lead. I hope you will do the same.