"Every time in history that men and women have been able to respond to the events of their world as an occasion to change their hearts, an inexhaustible source of generosity and new life has been opened, offering hope far beyond the limits of human prediction." Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
I said to a friend, "in six months, when the cameras roll out of Ferguson and the news coverage shifts to some other world injustice, I'm afraid we'll forget." It was a very white, middle-class American thing to say, the words of one who owns a small but lush one acre homestead boasting peonies, hazelnut trees, and an ample garden.The stalks of corn and maples are the only things always reaching for the sky here, and police brutality is a non-notion.
Forgotten, I said, and the stark contrast of the word against the images I've seen in the recent Ferguson news coverage left me embarrassed. I consider the police playing Afghanistan dress-up, firing teargas canisters and rubber bullets into a crowd. I consider the images of women flushing their eyes with milk. I consider the images of hurled molotov cocktails. How can such a thing be unremembered? How can such a thing be reduced to a footnote in the collective consciousness of country, much less in my own life?
The stark reality is this: forgetting such a thing is the luxury of those living a life of convenient short-term memory.
I don't want to forget Ferguson. I want it to be an etched memory, one which leads me to keep my ears to the ground. I want to keep listening to those living a wholly different American experience, and to show generosity in understanding their particular reality. And yes, I used the word "reality."
I'm not quite sure how the remembering will look, but I hope it gives rise to an "inexhaustible source of generosity." Maybe if enough of us remember, we can work together toward creating a better, more generous reality. Maybe that's romantic idealism, but some ideals are worth chasing.
I'm just a middle-class white fella in Northwest Arkansas. I'm not a frontline journalist or an urban dweller. I'm not a policy maker or pundit, not a historian or history-maker. I'm just a normal joe, and I'm promising not to forget the folks of Ferguson.
A Few Good Weekend Links:
1. "When Going There Means Going There," by Deidra Riggs;
2. "Because it's not #Ferguson. It's Ferguson." Preston Yancey, "When We Go Quietly?";
3. "Don’t let me bury my son alone. I don’t want the cameras, reporters, bloggers there. No tweets required. But friends – come." Kelley Nikondeha, "The Scars of Our Sons";
4. "I once read of a sort of euphoria that overtakes the body in drowning." On Rest and Stillness, by Guy Martin Delcambre.