What if every human being was born with a soul made of the purest silver? And what if over time that silver became tarnished, as silver does?
I have been trying to understand what is at the root of Wednesday’s atrocious attack at the Capitol building. Hatred, fear, and grief come to mind, as does racism, anti-Semitism, and a desire to believe lies when they are way more convenient than the truth. Also idolatry. And manipulation of power. And I am trying to understand all of this, rationally, intellectually, coolly, because when I go to the feelings place, I confront my own rage and grief and, yes I confess, hatred.
How did we get here? I know that, intellectually. I know that this was a long time coming and isn’t over yet. But what happened to these people, to the guy who was wearing a Camp Auschwitz t-shirt, as if the murder of six million Jews was something to be silk-screened? Is his heart tarnished beyond all recognition? What filled him with such hate and willful ignorance?
In this morning’s local paper I read an article about an incident of road rage in which a white woman pulled over a person of color, screamed racist epithets at him, and kicked his car because he was trying to merge lanes. What happened to her? I don’t think we can write this off and explain she was having a bad day. That hate has been building in her, nurtured, nourished, fed, stoked.
What is so terrifying about the color of a person’s skin? What is so grievous about a person’s religion? Why do some think that having a uterus makes half the world lesser?
And how will we ever restore the silver? Can anything undo the tarnish that has built up over centuries of lies and whispers and sin?
Some of my faithful friends would say that only Jesus can restore us, and while I agree with that a little, I think saying that absolves us (or at least us Christians) of working on our own stuff. Yes, Jesus saves, but as someone who tries to follow him, his teachings, his moral and ethical code, I must hold myself accountable and confess, repent, do penance even. I do not equate following Jesus with aligning myself with any political leader.
Can any of our souls regain their luster? Are some so tarnished that they have started to fail, erode? I leave that up to God. But I do wonder what might remove some of the grime.
For a while I’ve been toying with the idea that behind hate and fear lies grief. After Wednesday, I’ve had to revisit that. I do believe that behind some hate and fear lies grief – grief over the things that used to be, mostly, grief over a way of life that some think has been lost. But there is more going on here.
The hate and anger we saw on display Wednesday, the glee with which those domestic terrorists stormed that building, is fueled by more than grief. It has been fueled by outright lies, by the allure of conspiracy, by whispers that we can make this nation great again if only we get rid of those people. It has been nurtured online, in private chatrooms, on Twitter and Facebook. It has been mispresented in the media. It has been deliberate.
In the last forty-eight hours I’ve had many conversations about this. My mom, hardly a bleeding-heart liberal, was so angry she couldn’t sleep on Wednesday night. My daughter wasn’t surprised at all. My congregants are all over the map. My friends despair; one said it reminded her of 9/11. One person, a friend who’s been politically active since the 60’s, said she couldn’t believe that this would be the state of things at this point in her life.
I am not hopeful. And I tend to be a hopeful person.
So I go back to thinking about this. What can restore the luster? Acts of kindness. Works of justice. Unseating the powerful. Listening. Holding fast to the truth and calling out lies. Suspending some Twitter accounts indefinitely. For some of us, prayer. For some of us, confession, penance, and repentance. For some of us, arrest and jail.
Then again, to slightly twist Robert Frost, maybe nothing silver can stay.