Muddy Thoughts on the Baltimore Uprising

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My heart is full today.

There are things happening in my town these days, people rising up to fight a corrupt power, a system of injustice that has kept them down for as long as memory can hold. I struggle with my own part in this injustice, knowing that I was born into a place of relative privilege. I am sensitive to the ways my beliefs and words and actions impact the web of my community, and also of the reality that I can only see through the lens of my own experience.

As I peer through my little lens, trying to figure out what to do, how to be useful in this situation, the answers are slow to come. Like all of the big problems that keep me awake at night, it makes me feel inadequate, powerless, and small, this not knowing. Underlying is fear… that there is nothing I can do, that my outsider status places me too far from usefulness.

My heart is full for the community that is in pain: full with sorrow for the lost innocent life, only one of so many; full with indignation at the injustice that has been allowed to continue for so long; full with anger at the abuse of power by those who are supposed to protect and serve our community. And at the center of it all is hope – not simply hope, but anticipation of the changes that will bring liberation and justice. I am open to whatever form that takes, and I support the ones who lead the charge.

When my heart is full the way it is today, when I am living into the questions that rise out of the fullness, each breath becomes a silent prayer: I pray for the protection of the vulnerable ones.  I pray for justice and for change. And, I pray for the courage to be useful in whatever way I can be.

I wrote the words above six days ago, according to the automatic date-stamp on the draft. It was a couple of days after the protester/baseball fan fracas and tension was high in the city. I’d just come home from meeting with a friend and had lunch. I struggled to articulate the words, and saved them as a draft, intending to go back later to re-read them and decide whether they were worth posting.

Then the news came about the kids stranded at Mondawmin Mall, the police having stopped the public transportation that takes them home after school from running normally, the flash of violence, the men in riot gear, the national guard, the curfew, the protests, the protests, the violent arrests, the charges against the police who killed Freddie Gray, the protests, the protests, the protests.

And so this is the second half of the draft I started last week. My prayers were answered, partially. There is change happening; how exactly it will manifest, how lasting it will be, nobody knows, but I am hopeful. There is some small justice, how real it will be, nobody knows, but I am hopeful. I found the courage to help however I can, how useful that help is, nobody knows, but I am hopeful.

The past week has been a blur of constant activity, insomnia, helicopters whirring outside my window for 20 hours at a time, adrenaline, dwelling in the liminal space between normal every day life stuff and the strange twilight zone that Baltimore has become, talking about things that matter in varying degrees to different people, pushing and being pushed beyond the boundaries of comfort zone safety.

This morning the skies are quiet, and I’m getting ready to take a much-needed break from Baltimore out in the woods where there will be children laughing and drums and dancing the maypole. And as much as I just can’t wait to drink in all of it and have it wash the stress and anxiety out of my system for a moment, I am also constantly mindful of the many people who don’t have the luxury of escaping the challenging circumstances of the past week. It’s a feeling that is part gratitude, part apology, part outrage and part relief.

I’m not sure how to end this post. My heart is even more full than it was six days ago. More words wait to emerge, descriptions of my experiences on the periphery of this amazingly powerful moment.


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