Last week we drove 350 miles to Smith College, where our daughter was singing with the glee club at Christmas Vespers. Each year at a pair of services, campus and community enter liminal space by hearing sacred music from student choral and orchestral groups, pondering poetry and biblical readings by students and faculty, and singing carols together.
This year it also became a setting to turn attention to other matters. As a Facebook event page put it, “You can’t sing carols if you can’t breathe.”
Last Saturday was a stay-at-home-and-read-a-book-with-a-cup-of-something-warm-in-your-hands sort of day. It was the kind of damp cold that goes straight to your bones and chills your toes so that they don't get warm for the rest of the day. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good parade-watching day.
And yet, there we were, lined up outside the library on Church Street, umbrellas in hand, peering down the street and waiting for the sirens to indicate that the parade had started.
We have washed our hands as the war on drugs has overwhelmingly targeted black men. We have washed our hands as our justice system has given longer sentences to people of color. And then, when an innocent man dies, we keep scrubbing our fingers some more, as we blame the victim.
Thanksgiving is over in post-Ferguson America, and it can’t come too soon. A national celebration of country, family and freedom from want follows on the heels of protests, frenzied media, and the deployment of the National Guard over the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer over the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown. In an America deeply divided over race and debate over individual character vs. systems, bad apples vs. rigged games, the long dawn of Advent has begun. Thank God.
As the sun rose, I drove twenty-seven miles to my office at the little church in the Cajun swamps. Even though visitors to the office were rare, I showed up on time each day. Determined on my journey, I felt that familiar wave as I crossed the bayou. I eased my car to the gravelly side of the road. I stood, stretched. Breathed deeply.