Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ernesto approaches

While living on the East Coast for the past decade and change, I have seen a goodly share of hurricanes and nor'easters pushing their way up the coast. Each home, Newport, Madison, New Providence and now Doylestown I presume, has had its taste of the rain, wind and all that. In Newport, I had car damage. The Saturn that L and I just donated to the American Cancer Society still carries its "dueling scar" from a branch that hit it after being carried along by high winds. The basement of the house in Madison flooded. It took me two days to dry it out. We had a ceiling leak in our apartment...And a flood at ground level...In the Church and Vicarage in New Providence.

Each time, though, the little hits from those storms was overshadowed the experience someone else had...Usually just next door. There was a car just down the street in Newport that was flooded out and totaled. The house right across the street from us in Madison had a tree fall on it, punching a hole in the roof and only just narrowly avoiding breaking the back of the house's main roof beam. In New Providence, a neighbor of the church lost a tree that literally sheared off his front porch, lamps siding and all.

I think about these things as Ernesto approaches the region. The reality of life lived in context with neighbor means that everything is always happening at a number of levels to people with a variety of perspectives. Perhaps the hardest part of living in community in this day and age is that it is almost too easy to allow breakdowns in relationship, communication and point of view to damage our ability to both empathize and sympathize with each other.

"Thanks be to God that wasn't my ____insert issue/thing here____." When a branch goes through your neighbor's, well, that isn't just something happening across the street. The community is wounded now. At least, if we allow each other the time and space to share both pain and resolution.

So, this storm is pushing in...Along with a host of metaphorical ones as well. Storms of change, storms of challenges that we face as a parish, as a Church, as a nation and as members of that proverbial "global village."

This morning, on the news, I watched a political commentator do some analysis with the morning anchor on the latest post-Katrina/pre-9/11 anniversary/pre-election political rhetoric and talking points of that the current administration and its loyal opposition are employing, and deploying, on each other. "The terrorists" have been our enemy for a long time now. We are fighting two significant wars and I am sure hundreds of hidden conflicts in light of this President's commitment to a course of action just over four years ago. Thing is, the latest rhetoric has shifted away from "if you are not for us, you are against us" to a more subtle allusion (commentator's reference) to a more internecine struggle with the "Islamic fascists." I feel like every step we take down these paths deprive us more and more of the ability to see the people on the other side of the violence as human beings engaged in conflict. Even being at war with someone, trying to kill them before they kill us, does not deprive us of the responsibility of seeing them as people with parents, friends, children and emotions as valid as our own. This is not about being right or wrong. It is about being human. A man weeps because a Hezbollah rocket falls on his military son's barracks. Horrible. A Hezbollah political leader mourns because his mother and father were killed when his convoy was hit by a reprisal air strike. Forget the countless harmed who are written off as "collateral damage." These are the folks at the center of the conflict. They are still human, perhaps even MORE broken, because they not only experience the loss; they are also in no small way responsible for it.

Nothing happens to one person in the kingdom of God that does not affect another. We all share responsibility for what happens in community. Authority and power need to respect the fact that the number of people who cannot answer for themselves at this point gain adequate representation. We all need to strive for the ability to see others as ourselves. That is a simple Gospel truth, but it is also a maxim for the ages. What I do affects you, my brother or sister; what you do affects me. Now, we seek to forge peace.

Thing is, I have never seen, not in my life nor in the historic record, any place in human history where anyone vanquishing anyone has led to a greater life or prosperity for the human race. We may redistribute the blessings of freedom, peace and affluence...But to my knowledge and experience (and in fulfillment of Jesus' words), we still have the poor with us. And sometimes, they is us.

And so, the storms approach.

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