Deprived from Normal
The fall after the year I graduated from college, I had a supervisor who had a poster with a dinosaur and a list of all the reasons one should not eat meat. I looked at that poster long and hard and decided to become a vegetarian. It is not that I have never taken a bite of meat again, but pretty close. That decision made a big difference.
Likewise, just a few years later, I remember mopping the floor of a group home where I worked, and watching the fires of the Kuwait oil wells burn away on TV. I felt helpless, a passively contributing member of a society addicted to oil and the comforts it brings. It was a gross feeling. It was a moment when I thought long and hard about giving up my car and never driving again. I really did. That would make a difference, and a statement. Over the course of my life, I remember thinking that that decision would not only save the atmosphere a lot of the carbon that I, as a modern American, would proceed to naturally, thoughtlessly, quite passively spew into the atmosphere. It would also be a point of conversation. A line in the sand. I never made that courageous, incredibly inconvenient change, and that decision has made a big difference, too.
That decision to stop eating meat, and my decision to not stop driving, mattered. I have long thought – dreamed, really – that the best way to make the world just and right would be for the world to stop spinning, all our lives stop moving, and for all of us to be forced to stop at each injustice, and collectively come to terms with it before the world could start spinning again.
Well, in a way the world is in that spot.
The story of Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back, has, in a year of intentional and unwanted pauses, caused one more moment of reckoning. One more moment where normal is disrupted for the very purpose of changing what is normal. This is a weird time. But it is a time ripe with change. A potent moment.
If you are struggling with all that faces us each day in the news, if, perhaps for the first time in most of our lives, the front page has started to really affect your back door, remember good things can come from these challenging times.
Nobody could have ever predicted that protestors in the streets would be partnered with, even led by, millionaire basketball players who have pressed “pause” – if not “stop” – to say that we are no longer going to accept the racism of cops murdering black people.
This is the most exciting and exhausting political time of my life. I would not have drawn up the revolution this way. I would not have expected a pandemic to have partnered so well with street protests. I would not have expected athletes, so often so painfully quiet on social issues, to have partnered with poster-carrying, dyed-haired liberals, but they have.
This is the opportunity to make change the world has handed us. Frankly, the response surprises me.
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the shooting of Jacob Blake are awful tragedies. Let’s make their lives useful in saving others, sad tools in redeeming one of our country’s great shames and challenges.
But I’m told politics makes for strange bedfellows and that the lotus blooms only in the mud.
We at Pacific Unitarian, or Pacific Unitarian if you would rather, are going to continue our 1pm Sunday afternoon Zoom calls as tools to learn more about where racism meets justice, and how we can help. Likewise, I am going to defer a Death and Dying curriculum planned for seven Saturday mornings from October through November in order to bring before us even more tools to understand and fight systematic racism. Join us.