Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lives That Matter

Any time a single group is singled out for anything, a backlash of indignation erupts from other groups. And yet, from time-to-time some specific group—religious, ethnic, cultural, generational, gender—needs special focus for valid reasons. Such special focus usually (sometimes validly and of necessity) becomes relatively exclusive in order to call attention to the specific and critical concerns of that group.

Most recently the “Black Lives Matter” emphasis has caused a stir of backlashes, which in reality confirm the issues that motivated the movement in the first place. The movement is about racism, which for many of us is an undeniable structural reality that is pervasive in America today. The backlash more or less proves that reality.

And yet, there is some validity to the concerns behind the backlash. I don’t have the data, but I sense those concerns are about comparisons and perspectives: how many lives (of any gender or ethnicity) were ended by a peace office shooting an unarmed person, compared to how many peace officers’ lives were ended in the line of duty? And how many lives (of any gender or ethnicity) have been ended by a peace officer validly defending his/her or other lives?

Racism is undeniable (although many continue to deny it, anyway). I struggle daily with the residue of my own racist upbringing. Although I name it as sin, confess it, repent of it and reject it almost daily, I cannot deny that it impacts the way I react internally. I pray that my actions and my words reflect the path I choose, rather than the sin that weighs heavily on my soul. I choose to be active in community efforts to confront racism and to raise awareness; and I pray that my chosen actions and words will not be perceived as paternalistic.

Having confessed the reality of racism, however, I sense an additional demon at work in the testimony/counter-testimony surrounding “Black Lives Matter”. I think there is as general insecurity within Western culture that too often is manifested in a world view that says “The only way I can feel good about myself is to ferret out the shortcomings of others.”

Thus, “Black Lives Matter,” triggers a backlash litany of other lives that also matter. The litany is designed to point out the ethical and moral omissions of a movement that singles out one socio/ethnic group. In a sense it is that insecurity raising its head and whining, “Where’s mine?” At the infamous bottom line, of course, the backlash is a smoke screen devised to distract attention from the racism that is endemic within most human cultures.

The weakness of both the movement and the backlash is that each is reactive rather than pro-active. “Black Lives Matter” is a necessary response to a national crisis; nevertheless, it is reactionary in nature, and thus its effectiveness will be limited at best. The backlash is a predictable, but indefensible reaction that also will be ineffective, if not counterproductive.

What we lack at a national level is a proactive approach to countering racism. I have no illusion that my own ingenuity will produce the ultimate solution; but perhaps I can plant a seed that will be watered and fed and weeded by others who can nurture it to fruitfulness.

How about this as a basic proactive platform from which to deal with human life: “Every Life Matters!” To say that a life matters is not the same as affirming that life; nor is it necessary first to demand that it conform to one’s own standards of right/wrong, good/evil, etc. before it matters. To say that a life matters is not to deny that every life also lives out the consequences of its own choices. 

To say a life matters is to affirm that it has intrinsic value and potential.

To say “Every Life Matters” means, ontologically and a priori:
·         Black lives matter
·         The lives of Police and their families matter
·         The lives of Fire Fighter and their families matter
·         The lives of Emergency Medical Technicians and their families matter
·         The lives of Military personnel and their families matter
·         The lives of Conscientious Objectors matter
·         The lives of medical professionals and paraprofessionals matter
·         LGBT lives matter
·         Heterosexual lives matter
·         Heroic lives matter
·         Cowardly lives matter
·         Native American lives matter
·         Hispanic lives matter
·         Asian lives matter
·         Caucasian lives matter
·         Male lives matter
·         Female lives matter
·         Old lives matter
·         Middle-aged lives matter
·         Young adult lives matter
·         Children’s lives matter
·         Unborn lives matter
·         The lives of children born into poverty matter
·         The lives of the poor matter
·         The lives of the wealthy matter
·         The lives of the educated matter
·         The lives of the uneducated matter
·         The lives of the responsible matter
·         The lives of the irresponsible matter
·         The lives of the employed matter
·         The lives of the unemployed matter
·         The lives of the unemployable matter
·         The lives of employers matter
·         The lives of the healthy matter
·         The lives of the ill matter
·         The lives of the mentally ill matter
·         The lives of the differently abled matter
·         The lives of the strong matter
·         The lives of the weak matter
·         The lives of Pro-Life advocates matter
·         The lives of Pro-Choice advocates matter
·         Politically correct lives matter
·         Politically incorrect lives matter
·         Politically ignorant lives matter
·         Lives representing Free Enterprise matter
·         Lives representing Capitalism matter
·         Lives representing Socialism matter
·         Lives representing Communism matter
·         The lives of the innocent matter
·         The lives of the guilty matter
·         Christian lives matter
·         Jewish lives matter
·         Muslim lives matter
·         Hindu lives matter
·         Shinto lives matter
·         Buddhist lives matter
·         Baha’i lives matter
·         Tao lives matter
·         The lives of Democrats matter
·         The lives of Republicans matter
·         Tea Party lives matter
·         The lives of Libertarians matter
·         The lives of Independents matter
·         Your life matters
·         My life matters

This list of Lives That Matter is offered as a conceptual starting place. I feel relatively certain that other life categories could—and should—be added to the list; and I’m sure that there are those who are poised to pounce upon the list and judge it on the basis of its omissions. So, can we work together to complete the list, so we can get on about the business of building a world of peace, justice and love in which Every Life really Matters?

That’s how I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,