“Do you need a hug?” my five year old asked as I sat on the couch staring at the TV.
He must have seen it on my face. The President had just finished his Rose Garden address and, as if watching a split screen of dual realities, before the final words of his horrifying speech the pops of smoke grenades and screams of tear gas victims rang out.
Holding shields and charging the peaceful protest, the public park was cleared to make way for the President.
He was going for a stroll.
Having been sequestered in a bunker last night (welcome to our world, Mr. President), he now wanted to show strength…he feared being seen as weak.
And flanked by the Attorney General and his security advisors, he walked.
An empty church left vacant by both the pandemic that still plagues our land and the fire that raged last night in its basement, mirroring the rage in so many hearts at the reality that the plague of racism still has no vaccine.
I mean, that’s the truth, right? We’ll get a vaccine for Covid-19. But to extinguish racism and white supremacy we need a collective heart transplant, and unfortunately elective surgery is still not happening in many places…
Well, and most aren’t electing to have such a transplant, anyway.
On a friend’s social media feed she posted that we need to teach our white babies not to shoot or harm black and brown babies. Immediately the feed was pounced on by well-meaning but fragile folks who reminded her that “no one should shoot or harm anyone” and “that’s what we need to teach.”
Ok. But we need to start with our white babies…because, well, read the headlines.
And so he walked from the Rose Garden after a speech that could be generously described as taken from the papers of an aspiring dictator, and strolled to stand in front of a vacant church.
And there he held aloft a Bible which was, I kid you not, upside-down. At least, upside-down for him, making it not only unreadable for him, but also no more than a prop of some sort. It was backward for everyone…but both backward and upside down for him.
And just stood there.
Backward and, for him, upside-down.
I mean, I’m not one to think that symbolism is everything; it was obviously a mistake. Who holds up a book backward? What reader reads a book upside-down?
But, who knows? Maybe the book just refused to cooperate.
The scriptures have been known to do that. Too often they don’t cooperate with what I want them to do and say, either, in the end.
It’s like the book was an unwilling participant.
Wait, no. As someone well-versed in the stories of that bound volume, let me be clearer: it was an unwilling participant.
Because the scriptures are always unwilling to participate in oppression.
When the military is used against civilians, it should be in order to protect their Constitutional rights. Historically, that’s what it has been used for.
Eisenhower did this in Arkansas over school integration.
Kennedy did the same in Alabama.
And sure, in times of riot the Guard has been mobilized in an effort to control the situation. Notably this happened after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in the 60’s, and the military came to Chicago, Washington, and Baltimore as outrage spilled out of the homes and onto the streets…understandably so.
But even in those cases the military at least gave the appearance of using force to quell a situation that was bubbling over (and again I say that the bubbling over was UNDERSTANDABLE).
But today the military was used against peacefully protesting civilians so that the President could take a walk to a vacant church and get his picture holding up a backwards Bible.
So, yes Alistair, I need a hug for multiple reasons.
Because today the rights of those people were hijacked.
Because today the military was forced to do something that, arguably, is unconstitutional.
Because today the scriptures that I have dedicated my life to studying were used in a publicity stunt.
Because today a church building, a sanctuary, was used to provide the backdrop for someone who has made it part of their political platform to deny sanctuary to immigrants.
Today Christianity was once again used as a prop in the ongoing narrative of white supremacy and oppression in the United States. It, along with our current pandemic, is a plague upon the land. What is it with this penchant for prop-holding that politicians do with our scriptures and creeds, turning them upside-down for their own political agendas?
So yeah, I could use a hug.
In the battle between hugs and hand grenades, I still contend that hugs will overcome.
But today was not that day…so bring on the hugs, because we’ve had enough of the political, and literal, hand grenades for June 2020.