FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Deliver Us From Babel

by

Writing used to be easy for me.  Now, nothing seems easy.  Leaning in, I just stare at the screen.  Occasionally, I try to type something.  Despite my desperation to write, my mind is held captive in a former place.  Police were shot. I was there. I was there because I saw film of police shooting a black man dead.

Bloody videos never leave you.  Every image sticks.  The officer took his gun and shot Alton Sterling dead.  Amidst the screams, Philando Castile bled out.  Everyone wanted to talk about their lives, but I couldn’t get past their deaths. I wasn’t alone.  We put out a call, and more than a thousand people responded here in Dallas, Texas.

Downtown Dallas has been the site of dozens of rallies.  Over the last year, we’ve repeatedly marched for endangered lives.  This rally was large, and we didn’t hesitate.  The crowd was ready to go.  The speakers were ready to go.  We were all ready to go as cries of justice rang out.

In the midst of misery, God is incarnate.  When we believe all is lost, God speaks from the bones.  The bones rise up and lead us on.  They did that night.

I was nervous about speaking, but when I opened my mouth, everything seemed clear.  Though I spoke for a long time, people have only remembered one phrase, “God Damn White America.”  The gathered understood the adaptation of Jeremiah Wright’s infamous phrasing.  The message of unity was simple.  The message of love was heard.  We must become one.  There is no White America.  There is only America.  Violence has a way of creating confusion. I am white. I do not damn me or my fellow whites. I damn the idea of exclusive White America.

Fear is not a part of faith.  I didn’t care.  I was afraid.

Safety was at the front of my mind.  The Dallas Police Department guided the marchers through downtown with tremendous grace.  On multiple occasions, we stopped or changed routes to make sure that everyone had the chance to keep up.  I stayed at the front of the line.  In time, I settled into the rhythm of the movement.  Throughout the march, anything seemed possible.  Love and justice were within our grasp.  Then, confusion reigned.

Darkness was all Jesus knew.  The disciples professed their allegiance to him.  Now, they couldn’t even stay awake.  Unable to function, Jesus cried out in fear.  No one awoke.

Our march wound through downtown.  Stopping at the Old Courthouse, we took a minute to talk about the 1910 lynching of Allen Brooks.  There was no denying that the march for love and justice was long.  For a few seconds, I stared at the bricks.  What did they know?  What would they say?  How much further is the journey?  Organizers and the police shouted for me to run up to the front of the march.  I did.

For the next few blocks, I talked to a DPD Major.  In the midst of the rally and protest winding down, we talked about the success of the night.  The conversation felt natural.  There seemed to be a genuine connection.  A few steps past Austin Street, everything changed.

Things seemed clearer before Babel.  Now, no one speaks the same language.  Confusion is all anyone knows.

“Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop…”  I heard it, the violence, so clearly, no Babel, identical in any language.  I’ve heard it ever since.  The shots rang out. Bullets flew in every direction.  Multiple people dropped.  The echoes only enhanced the terror of it all.  Pandemonium seized us.  Grabbing my shirt to make sure I hadn’t been shot, I ran back toward the protestors.  I was terrified that a thousand people were about to walk into the middle of a shootout.  Throughout that evening, I carried a 10-foot cross.  At that moment, I used it as a shepherd’s staff and started swinging it around while screaming, “Run! Run! Active Shooter! Active Shooter! Go! Go!” I exhorted as many people out of there as I could.

The march up to that point was beautiful.  Every step was about stopping violence.  Love and justice seemed so loud and so close, but evil wasn’t listening.  Five officers were dead and devastation set in.

Total confusion.

For the next few days, I told my story on news outlets.  The officers were never far from my mind.  Repeatedly, I reminded people that our intention was a nonviolent, peaceful protest.  “Love” and “justice” were the only words on my lips.  I looked directly into the camera and declared, “Stop shooting America!”  I don’t know if anyone heard me.  Violence always confuses the ears.  I saw it happen.  I saw it happen again in Baton Rouge.  Former words are confused, and present words are confusing.  We will not be able to understand until we stand down.

Oh God, deliver us from Babel.

Amen.

More articles by:

Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a theologian (MDiv and ThM), historian (MA) and bioethicist (MS) by academic training.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail