Wednesday, September 11, 2013

words, words and expressions, all these confessions of where we stand....

Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm. How much the government counts on those words, pays for those words to exalt our own way of life, to build up fear of the enemy. Deliver us, Lord, from the fear of the enemy. That is one of the lines in the psalms, and we are not asking God to deliver us from enemies but from the fear of them. Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them. 

There is plenty to do, for each one of us, working on our own hearts, changing our own attitudes, in our own neighborhoods. If the just man falls seven times daily, we each one of us fall more than that in thought, word and deed. Prayer and fasting, taking up our own cross daily and following Him, doing penance, these are the hard words of the Gospel. - Dorothy Day

 I find I read the Psalms and Dorothy Day more and more, seeking a measured response to what I see around me, the fear of the Other abroad, the fear of the Other at home.

There were two instances of gay-bashing that happened at a bar around the corner from me. It's in a sketchy neighborhood, and the men there aren't the most tough so I'm not terribly surprised, but it still grieves me. A group of young black kids were the ones who perpetrated this, so I see the outrage in comments sections and the neighborhood association's facebook page and it makes me cringe. These folks who said they'd never shoot Trayvon Martin and what a crazy cracker that Zimmerman guy was are the same ones threatening to go vigilante on those "thugs" in their neighborhood and have developed the same suspicion that they abhor in those down south. Is it wrong of me to observe that those marginalized by their sexuality are the ones who have the most bile towards those of a different skin color?

When your neighbors start freaking out because a young black man walks a pit bull down their street because he might be casing the neighborhood we have a problem. When your neighbors are freaking about the guy who rides a motorcycle, we have a problem. When you wonder if your best guy friend who is black is going to have trouble with the neighbors if he moves in upstairs, we have a problem.When your neighbors are disturbed that black teenagers are hanging out at the playground and have the potty mouths we all have, we have a problem.

Also, I should note here, that I live in Cleveland proper. Not the suburbs, not the exurbs. Cleveland. Statistically, you're more likely to have neighbors of African American descent than other places so I don't understand what's so shocking about this though I get the feeling sometimes that the new urbanists want things to be just as crackerific as the milquetoast neighborhoods they left behind, just with less Applebees and more brewpubs. Dudes who are creepy in general bother me, but that cuts across all demographics and is a different thing entirely.

When 9/11 happened, I was a senior in high school living in a suburb with a relatively high population of Arab immigrants. A guy crashed his car into the local mosque. The kids at my high school with last names like Hasan and Abdallah got a lot of grief, even though most of them were Christian and went to the Coptic church nearby or the Maronite church downtown. My dad delivered to the corner stores owned by their parents. It really disconcerts me to see the way that they're now profiled and viewed with suspicion, to the point where certain friends of mine disliked using their last names for fear of the social repercussions despite having no religious affiliations whatsoever.

I feel like it's the same toxic fortress mentality that pervades all of these interactions and I hate it so much. I can't even express how much I hate it that we the people are so ugly and find it so hard to even be decent to our neighbors let alone love them.

“We do not know, we do not know. We shall live from day to day, and put more locks on the doors, and get a fine fierce dog when the fine fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously; and the beauty of the trees by night, and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things we shall forego. We shall forego the coming home drunken through the midnight streets, and the evening walk over the star-lit veld. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives, and knock that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution. 

And our lives will shrink, but they shall be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown. And the conscience shall be thrust down; the light of life shall not be extinguished, but be put under a bushel, to be preserved for a generation that will live by it again, in some day not yet come; and how it will come, and when it will come, we shall not think about at all.”