I know what I am about to write here will not go over well with everyone, so I’ll apologize in advance. I’m saying it because I need to say it not because I think that anyone needs to hear it. So, warning posted. This reflection is really just for me and to me.
The events in the last week or so have horrified me. People are dead who did not deserve to die how they died and all for, what seems at least to me, no good reason. Some we don’t know what lead up to their deaths, others we do. More and more we have people who say they “speak for the victims” when in reality they have know way of knowing what what these victims would say.
That being said, they have a right to speak. Everyone has a right to speak their mind and share their ideas. What no one has is the right to kill someone because that person doesn’t agree with you.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, it seems we no longer have the right to speak if there is even the slightest possibility that what is said or shared may cause “discomfort” or “offense.”
I don’t think most of us what true discomfort or offense feels like. As unhappy as I have been during some of the trials of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really been uncomfortable. As many times as I have had someone disagree or rant at me because of my gender, religion, or perceived “white privilege” I’ve never been so mortally offended that I would want to shut that person down through violence or intimidation.
In my faith, we’ve faced persecution, degradations, insults, violence and even death. We are taught by our leaders not to keep looking backwards but to look forward with faith to a future where things will be better. We are asked to actively look for ways that we can just “be a friend” to others, regardless of what they believe and to not push our beliefs on others.
Now to the part that some of you may not like:
I read Remi’s open letter at the beginning of the week and I support his ideas in principle. To be honest, I thought that his reason for writing the letter would be different. I thought it would be geared toward the larger debate that has been going on this week in the U.S. Now, in the context of what happened today in France, I see the subject of his letter as both more important and less important. It is more important because it strikes at the fundamental loss of the ability to debate opposing positions in a meaningful way. It is less important because the debate is becoming less about being able to speak to opposing or “controversial” beliefs than it is to having the right to live when you disagree with someone who sees the life of someone who disagrees with them as meaningless.
I grieve for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile who commited no crime worth dying for. I also grieve for the families of the slain police officers who also did not commit a crime other than choose to put themselves in the line of fire to protect others. I grieve for the families of the victims in Nice who only wanted to see some fireworks. And I grieve for all of us. I grieve for the lost art of civil debate.