“Cain killed Abel, and the blood cried out from the ground--a story so sad that even God took notice of it. Maybe it was not the sadness of the story, since worse things have happened every minute since that day, but its novelty that He found striking. In the newness of the world God was a young man, and grew indignant over the slightest things. In the newness of the world God had perhaps not Himself realized the ramifications of certain of his laws, for example, that shock will spend itself in waves; that our images will mimic every gesture, and that shattered they will multiply and mimic every gesture ten, a hundred, or a thousand times. Cain, the image of God, gave the simple earth of the field a voice and a sorrow, and God himself heard the voice, and grieved for the sorrow, so Cain was a creator, in the image of his creator.” (Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping)
"I can't breathe." (Eric Garner, last words)
"Don't shoot." (Michael Brown, last words)
It was 3:41 PM when Jordan texted me and told me there was no indictment in the Eric Garner case. I sighed deeply and pushed it hard, out of my mind.
Driving home, I avoided NPR, flipped the channel when it seemed the news might come on.
I arrived home, kissed my husband, sat on the floor to accept an enthusiastic greeting from Lucy the beagle-mix. We went for a walk. I ate dinner while watching The Mindy Project. I laughed. I made hot chocolate. We watched New Girl.
Hulu commercial break. Jordan checks in with Twitter. New Yorkers have gathered in Times Square, are laying down in Grand Central Station, chanting "I can't breathe." The city echoes with Eric Garner's last words.
I turn away.
We call it a night. I grab a book and crawl into bed. I don't crack the book's spine, I only hold it, turn it over and over in my hands. The image that I saw months ago, the image of Garner on the ground, floats before my mind's eye. That of a 12 year old boy falling to the ground follows close behind it.
Nine days ago, we sat and waited anxiously for the grand jury to make a decision in Ferguson. Since then, I've done all that I can to turn it off, shut it out. Weary of the clatter, of the shouting, the ignorance, the dogma. Sickened by the politics, the violence, the utter disregard for those in mourning.
I'm not sure another voice needs to join the droning chorus. So, I don't write with the intention of making a case for justice, of arguing the facts. Rather, I write because black lives DO matter and the loss of my fellow humans deserves my attention, my sorrow. I come to join the mourners who wail with grief, who wrap their arms around one another and, together, shoulder the burden of loss.
I have become so numb to the heartache of the world around me. It seems we all have. Tragedy is simply a soapbox from which to shout, a folder to tuck safely in a binder of evidence against the other.
No, friends. No. The blood cries out from the ground, the earth is marked with sorrow. Brother has murdered brother. Our siblings have perished. We are destroying our family.
That we do not flinch when a little boy is gunned down, whether by a cop or a classmate, is a sign. That we cannot see our own guilt in the desperate, violent actions of our children is an omen. That we cloak ourselves in armor rather than in sackcloth when a beloved, valuable soul perishes at the hands of another beloved, valuable soul is a signal. Something is terribly wrong. If we do not right our course, if we do not come to recognize the intrinsic worth of those around us, we will not survive. We will not find peace.
"...that shock will spend itself in waves... our images will mimic every gesture, and that shattered they will multiply and mimic every gesture ten, a hundred, or a thousand times."
If he cannot breathe, if you cannot breathe, I cannot breathe.
Loosen your grip from your brother's neck. Put down your gun. Embrace, listen, forgive, and live.