If and when we get on the other side of this pandemic and this civil unrest triggered by the murder of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, we will need to stop and create both space and time for grief, not just for the Americans who died of COVID-19 but for victims of the virus around the world and for the victims of white supremacy, an evil ideology at the root of America's founding.
Beyond that, we will need to grieve for the many, many people who died of other causes but who, because of the pandemic, were not given traditional funerals or memorial services.
Grief is a natural and even vital process. It is both a pure, squealing shout at the evil of death and a plea for comfort in the face of unspeakable loss.
It is both a necessary questioning of God's sometimes-inscrutable ways and, for people of faith, an affirmation that, in the end, we are in God's loving hands no matter what.
If we try to skip past ways to express our grief, we simply put off a day of reckoning, a day when the pent-up anger and frustration will explode, perhaps in a way analogous to the way black America's pent-up anger over 400 years of oppression and another police officer killing a defenseless black man exploded recently in the streets of Minneapolis -- and then around the nation and the world.
As we think about how to grieve after this pandemic and after George Floyd, there is much we can learn from chaplains who work in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.
This excellent story will teach you much about that if you don't already know about it.
The author focuses on several different chaplains, including one in Seattle, and describes her job -- and the job of chaplains generally -- this way: It's "to guide the dying toward peace, the families of the dead into grief. To witness and honor the great pain of staggering loss."
As the author writes, "Our country’s grief is so vast that it can sometimes turn invisible. You cannot see the mountain when you’re trapped beneath its weight. At many hospitals, chaplains work to help those closest to death grapple with its reality. Doctors and nurses care for bodies; chaplains for minds and spirits."
So see what you can learn in this piece about how chaplains approach death and, thus, how we can as we continue to prepare for a national period of grieving yet to come.
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A WORD ABOUT RACISM FROM INDIA
As we Americans think about how to change systemic racism in our country, we should recognize that other nations, too, deal with oppressive systems that prevent people from reaching their full potential.
So today I'm going to share with you a piece written by Markandey Katju, a former justice on India's Supreme Court. He and I have been friends since childhood, when I lived in India for two years.
Indians are hypocrites if they condemn racism in USA
Recently a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into the neck of a black man, George Floyd, as the latter begged that he could not breathe. The black man ultimately died, and the video of the incident has gone viral on the internet, leading to widespread protests.
There is universal condemnation of this outrageous incident, but the question is with what face can we Indians condemn it? Does it lie in our mouths to do so when caste discrimination and atrocities against dalits (formerly called the "untouchables") continue unabated in India even today?
This spark of hate and discrimination on a caste and racial basis is embedded deep in the Indian psyche, and still felt today. For a dalit daring to fall in love with a non-dalit is inviting a death sentence, and often in a horrendous manner.
Can we stop this infamy in our own country? Can we eat, play and live equally with every human we come across in India? The answer is an obvious no.
In America if a black man marries or has an affair with a white woman today it may be frowned upon by some racists, but it is unlikely that the couple will be physically attacked. In India if a dalit boy marries or has an affair with a non-dalit girl, the likelihood is that both will be killed by the girl’s relatives or her caste members who feel they have been "dishonored." Articles 15, 16, 17, 23 and 29 of the Constitution, all of which serve as measures against both caste and racial discrimination, remain only on paper. Even after seven decades of independence we still are not able to abide by our Constitution, which "guarantees" equality irrespective of caste, creed, color and sex.
These racial prejudices that Indians have also take the form of colorism, which the number of “fairness” products available in the market testifies to -- for example, creams which dark colored women use to make their skin appear fairer. In India fair skin is regarded as superior to dark skin. Social stigma created in the society to victimize a dalit has never seen a full stop. The problem assumes an altogether different dimension when the institutions of law-governed societies themselves become a site of racism.
A few years ago it was unimaginable that an un-elected all-male village council in India had ordered that a 23-year-old SC (meaning "Scheduled Caste," or dalit) girl, Meenakshi Kumari, and her 15-year-old sister be raped. The "sentence" was handed down as punishment after their brother eloped with a married non-SC woman. They had also ordered that the sisters be paraded naked with blackened faces. Nothing could justify this abhorrent punishment.
Last year we have seen a brutal death of 25-year-old Haresh Kumar Solanki, an SC who dared to fall in love with and marry a woman from the "upper caste." Eight family members of his wife Urmila, who was two-months pregnant, killed this boy while a women’s helpline team was trying to negotiate with the father, Dasrath Singh Jhala, to send his daughter back to her husband’s home.
The brutal killing in Varmor village in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad district comes six months after Haresh and Urmila got married against her family’s wishes. Even authorities like the police, which are supposed to be neutral and fair to everyone, can no longer be trusted to enforce the law in a fair and just manner. Because of this special nature of racism, which is experienced at every stage from the initial prejudices and attacks to the police and hospital authorities, there is often no choice for the victims and their supporters but to mobilize and pressure the authorities at every stage to come to a semblance of justice.
People have to come and agitate in front of police stations, hospitals and courts. Rohit Vemula’s death had once again exposed the deep-seated caste discrimination in higher education institutions – both among students and teachers. Discrimination and atrocities against dalits are destroying our nation.
If we cannot change the feudal mindsets of our own people who commit such barbaric deeds against a section of our own countrymen we surely have no face to protest over and comment on incidents of racism that happened in Minneapolis and are happening globally.
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ST. DON'S CHURCH?
If you're still wondering what in the world President Trump was doing recently by clearing the street of protesters in front of the White House so he could walk across the street and pose with a Bible in front of a church, perhaps this Slate column will help you figure it out. Over the years there have been some pretty good and some pretty bad novels involving fictional presidents of the United States. But I don't think any of the authors of those works could have come up with something as strange and morally befuddling as that photo op. Trump truly is in a classless by himself. This opinion piece by a pastor describes some of what's behind Trump's photo op. Among other points he makes is this: "The American church sold itself long ago to perpetuate the myth of America’s divine destiny for the paltry price of access to power and respectability."