What Can We Do?

This week I rolled out of bed when my alarm went off, grabbed my phone, scrolled through email, Facebook and the news (my version of a shot of caffeine for jerking myself awake). And then read that Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. I woke my husband up to tell him the news. And then sat there feeling numb. 

Now what? What does this mean for all the people in Ukraine? What does this mean for Russia? What does this mean for our country and the whole world? 

War. The ugliest word in human language. 

I have been trying to keep up with the news. I’ve been praying a lot. I’m starting to see ads pop up asking for money donations to help the coming refugees who are fleeing the war. And my cynicism pokes through. How many of these sites are legitimate? Who do I trust? Yes, I can send a little bit of money, but who do I send it to? 

I’ve seen videos of protests, people singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Most of this is taking place in Europe. Understandably. And I’m starting to see a bit of the guilt-throwing starting to happen. All you happy people sitting by, doing nothing, while others are suffering. Shame on you. 

And I wonder, what can we do? I have lost all hope that my government is interested in hearing my opinion. And I feel like I am just helplessly sitting by, waiting for the people with power to figure out what to do. 

I wish there was a checklist. This is the human response required when war breaks out in the world. 

  1. Do x
  2. Do y
  3. Do z

And then we would all know what we are supposed to be doing and we could go about doing it. But it doesn’t exist. And so we each have to figure out what we are required to do. The people in Ukraine have a totally different set of tasks they have to do as compared to people in the nieghboring countries, as compared to people in Russia, as compared to people in authority, as compared to people far away with no authority. 

And so, as with all things, we each have to figure out for ourselves, what we can do to help. And pray for those who have more power or opportunities to help. 

If I had the power to stop this war, I would. If I was close at hand and had any opportunity to help those in need, I would. As it is, I have a little money I can send to help refugees. I can pray. And I can continue to keep my eyes and ears open to see if there is anything else I can do. 

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,

Let me once know.

I sought thee in a secret cave,

And ask’d, if Peace were there,

A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:

Go seek elsewhere …

George Herbert “Peace”

What do we Stand For?

Today, at my daughter’s high school, some of the kids staged a walkout in “protest”. It was in the news. I found this interesting because I had already seen my daughter after school and asked her how her day was, and she had made no mention of a walk-out. So, I asked her what had happened, and she was like, oh yeah. They did a walk out. I asked if she participated. She said no. I asked what her reasons were. She said it wasn’t very organized and she asked the kids what they were protesting, and no one could really give her an answer, just that they were protesting, and she should join. She said she didn’t join because she didn’t know what they were exactly protesting. 

And I’m proud of her. Because I think she was the only one that didn’t walk out of her classroom. I would have been proud of her if she had joined the protest too, if she could have told me what issue she was protesting, and what she was hoping to accomplish by protesting. 

The main thing is that she knows her mind and does not thoughtlessly follow along with the crowd. 

This has kind of tied into other thoughts I’ve been having today. I have been thinking about conservative politics and how it presents itself in the media and social platforms.  And I have been feeling today that the conservative movement has adopted a defensive position. Everything that we say has to do with what we DON’T support. We don’t support gay marriage. We don’t support the trans movement. We don’t support the idea that our country has racism problems. We don’t support BIG GOVERNMENT (which translates to: we don’t support expanded food stamps, welfare, subsidized housing, etc). We don’t support immigration over our Southern border. We don’t support Common Core…I’m sure there are more, these are the just the ones that are coming immediately to mind. 

My question is, What DO we support? 

I know that we are vehemently against abortion. And I agree. I am against abortion. 

But what are we FOR? 

I have many, many Conservative Christian friends who are foster parents, who volunteer at Pregnancy Centers, who work with the homeless, who volunteer their time to reach out to prisoners. I have Conservative Christian friends who organize food trucks for areas in our city that are food deserts. I have Conservative Christian friends who reach out to our refugee population here in our city, helping them connect with the resources they need. I have Conservative Christian friends who volunteer their time to teach English as a Second Language to those immigrants who are coming across our Southern border. 

I see this. I know that a great deal of my Conservative Christian friends are very involved with helping those around them in their community. But for some reason, whenever we, as a group, engage with the general public, the only thing we seem able to portray is what we are against. 

I find myself kind of in the same place as my daughter. I have always considered myself Conservative simply because I don’t support abortion and I don’t want to tie myself to a political group that openly supports abortion. But, these past four years I have become increasingly hesitant to affiliate myself with any political group. And I feel a bit of pressure. Come on Esther, aren’t you a conservative too, aren’t you going to join our conservative politics? I’m not sure. What do you represent? What is your message? What goals are you trying to accomplish? I know what you are against, but what are you for? 

(And forgive me for messing around with politics. I love my Trump friends and I love my Biden friends. What I especially love is when you know your mind and can tell me, with precise bullet points, why you are in the political party you are in. I feel like I don’t know my own mind right now, and I’m asking myself hard questions. ) 

Thoughts on the Protests

This past week the DA in our city released the bodycam video of the police shooting of Anthony Thompson Jr at Austin East High School. I watched the presentation the DA gave as she walked through all the evidence, one step at a time, and ended with the conclusion that it was a justifiable action by the police officer and no charges would be brought against the police. Seeing the evidence, as she presented it, I had to agree. Yes. This looks like it was definitely justifiable. 

So, I was really surprised when I started reading FB posts from my black friends from this neighborhood. They had a completely different perspective. They felt that the DA maligned Anthony’s character by bringing up the domestic violence incidents that led to the police being called. They wanted to know why the police did not use a taser or try talking first. They wanted to know why the police did not speak to Anthony from the doorway of the bathroom and ask him to drop his weapons and come out with his hands up. They watched the video and felt that they were seeing the police’s hands on the gun, not Anthony’s, when it was fired. In fact, they were seeing something completely different from me. 

When two people watch the same video and see two different things, you’ve got to step back and realize that vision is not just a physical thing that our eyes do for us. Vision is affected by what is in our minds, our past, our experiences as well. Perspective. We can all see an image, but our perspective is going to tell us different things about that image. 

I think about where we are at in our country. When this incident happened, we were in the middle of the George Floyd trial. The news is frequently posting more and more incidents of police officer shootings that seem to have been avoidable. The experience of people of color in their involvement with the police has led to a feeling of distrust and danger where the police are concerned. 

Since the release of the bodycam videos, our city has seen a couple protests. I watched some video from one of the protests and the things that they were chanting hurt my heart. This is not my perspective. I don’t hold these views. But, I feel like I can understand, a little, where these views are coming from. 

So, here’s the question. Can we lay down our self-righteousness, our desperate need to always be right, and just enter into the idea that other people have different perspectives than us? Can we withhold our judgement for a minute and remember that other people have vastly different stories than we do, and those stories have caused them to see the world in a very different light than us?   

I believe in absolute truth. And I believe the Bible spells out what that truth is. But, when it comes to things like watching bodycam videos of a seventeen year old being shot and then deciding who is guilty and not guilty, I don’t think that falls into right and wrong categories. There is a lot of gray that we have to wade through. Let’s have grace for each other and understanding as we all react to this event in a different way.