Violence – What Can I do?

“God should kill all the bad people.”

“God doesn’t want to kill all the bad people. He wants them to become good people.”  She scrunched up her 5-year-old face and yelled at me.

“No!  He should kill them!”  I took a deep breath so I could speak calmly.

“Have you ever done anything that makes God sad?”


“Have I ever done anything that makes God sad?”


“Then God would have to kill us.  He would have to kill everybody.  He doesn’t want to kill us. That’s why he sent Jesus, to help all of us become good people so he doesn’t have to kill us.”

She sat there eating her sandwich contemplating this new perspective.  I sat there thinking, “There has been way too much killing these last few weeks.”

I heard about Orlando that Sunday morning from a Facebook post by a friend who lives in Florida.  During church I absorbed nothing of the sermon and barely joined in the singing.  All I could think of was the horror of trying to escape a loud, dark night club and the surprise and sorrow of so many.  Will the survivors ever be able to return to life?

I was moved in October 2014 when a group of Missouri citizens interjected into an evening at the St. Louis Symphony a peaceful, beautiful and moving protest in honor of Mike Brown of Ferguson.  But far before we lost Mike Brown and in the few years since we lost Mike Brown there have been so many – so many that I cannot list them all for fear I will forget someone.  I have no doubt there are more that did not make the news.

“I have to do something.  What can I do?”  I asked myself over and over.  But I never came to a conclusion.

Then Baton Rouge.  Then Falcon Heights.  Then Dallas.  Then the 4th of July Weekend in Chicago.  The land of the free and the home of the brave is experiencing way too much killing and crying.

I am blond and blue eyed.  My German Catholic great-grandmother came from Germany before WWII.  I often wonder who I would have been if I had been there during the Nazi regime.  Would I have ignored the persecuted to save my own skin?  Would I have tried to hide the innocent from certain death?  Would I have become a Nazi myself, slowly swept up in twisted Nationalism?

There it is.

I face seminal events every day – moments when I choose attitudes and actions that will set the course for my life.   Until I admit I am human and I have prejudice, pride, and the potential to make terrible decisions in desperation or anger, I cannot help.  Until I realize that a heritage and skin color I did not choose is the only thing that is different between me and the rest of humans who also did not choose their parents, I cannot love.  I could be them and they could be me.

That is right.

I could have been Mike Brown.

I could have been one of 49 people dancing in a bar on the wrong night.

I could be officer and Widow Emily Thompson trying to get up each morning and go on.

But more importantly, I could have been Micah Johnson who just got tired and overwhelmed in his pain, got confused about justice and tried to take matters into his own hands.

I could have been officer Yanez whose listened to his adrenal stress response, killed Philando Castile and also ruined the lives of Diamond Reynolds and her child.  How would that weight feel to carry?

Why would Omar Mateen believe in the cause of ISIS and do such terrible things?  I have no idea.  But I do know he was human and we humans have believed lies or avoided admitting the truth for so long that millions have died simply for being born Jewish, black or from the wrong tribe.  We humans play the power games in elementary school, at the office, in church, in politics, at parties.   If God had not sent us Dr. King, Aung San Suu Kyi and Elie Wiesel we would be worse off than we are now.  And now is pretty bad despite their best efforts.IMG00306-20120723-1547

Don’t hear what I am not saying.  Every person needs to be responsible for her or his actions.  Justice and Peace go together.  But there
is no peace without forgiveness.  There is no forgiveness without compassion.  There is no compassion without seeing that we are just as screwed up and just as vulnerable as everyone else on this planet.

So how do I help?  I am going to start with me.

Hello, my name is Jamie and I am a screwed up human.



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