It is not lost on me that as I board the plane for our nation’s capital Sunday night, it will be on the first anniversary of its becoming “ours.” For me, this nation was “yours,” and I was categorized as an alien – green tentacles optional – until one year ago Sunday. Thank you for having me.
So a year on, what is the difference between “yours” and “ours”? What has changed? Have I?
One month after that day, a school shooting a little too close to home, and far too close to two children whom I had taught in Sunday School, reminded me of some of the things I had worried over before we came here. Could I live in a country with so many guns? Would I feel safe in a neighbourhood where deadly weapons might legally hide behind any given respectable suburban door?
Most of the time, it hardly seemed to make a difference. Bad things happen anywhere; tragedy strikes, anger lashes out, or despair; such is the universal condition.
When this place was “yours,” and I was an alien, I could turn the other cheek, look away and pretend that this was not causing me a problem, so it was not my problem.
It wasn’t exactly true, but as a working model, it served; and anyway, I didn’t feel as though I had a lot of choice.
Now, this place is ours. I am involved; I am invested. My children are growing to adulthood in the society that we have created and whose future we will choose together. I do not want to worry about it. I do not want to be afraid for them, or for their friends, the children I taught in Sunday School, the children who trust us to keep them safe and to make their world right. I cannot any longer close my eyes and ears to the seductive lies that greater force enforces peace, that violence restores justice, that fear offers finer protection than kindness, that our security depends not on loving our neighbours, but on arming ourselves against them.
As I board the plane for Washington Sunday night, I will have just left a community celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, who spoke fifty years ago in another context of the “fierce urgency of now.” We cannot wait for justice. We should not wait for peace.
An editorial in my local paper this morning reflecting on the President’s gun control initiatives said that “the president’s suggestions can help … But only if he and an aroused public refuse to be silent again.”*
A year ago I was granted a voice, even though I speak with an accent. I will no doubt use it to laugh and cheer on Monday, and I pledge to continue to use it to support the fiercely urgent business of justice, peace, and the welfare of all people in the year to come.
*The Plain Dealer, January 18, 2013, A7, Editorial: “No backing down on anti-gun effort”