Thursday, December 4, 2014

All Lives Matter

"Sacred Beauty"
- along a wilderness trail -

Yet once again racism has raised its ugly head in this country as one more Grand Jury fails to indict a White police officer in the death of a Black man - this time in New York City. Protesters have taken to the streets holding banners and waving placards that proclaim, "Black Lives Matter." 

In a news conference this morning, the mayor of New York looked out at the sea of people holding up their banners and their signs and lamented over the fact that the protesters have found it necessary to rally around the statement, "Black Lives Matter." He shook his head in disgust saying that it is a sad situation when an idea such as this actually needs to be stated, declaring, 

It's a phrase that that should never have to be said,
it should be self evident.

As I listened to the mayor, it occurred to me that this is precisely the problem in our culture today. Indeed, it should be self evident that Black lives matter. In fact it should be self evident that all lives matter. It should be self evident, but it isn't.

For years now, social commentators have been warning that this nation is becoming more and more infected with the debilitating disease of "rugged individualism."  In a climate of rugged individualism  the ethic of the day is personal gain and self-gratification, and the only life that really matters is "my" life and the lives of "my" close circle of friends or like-minded thinkers. In a climate of rugged individualism,  "I" only care about what affects "me," and if it doesn't affect me (and mine), it doesn't really matter. 

I believe that there are many White people in the cultural majority today who would never see themselves as being racist, and yet when "push comes to shove," Black lives don't really matter. Many White folks may even be sympathetic to Black causes, opposed to the fact that Black people are treated unfairly, but they also think that "as long as I am being treated fairly, that's what really counts. So, what happens to Black lives doesn't really matter.

In a culture of rugged individualism, if I am a citizen living comfortably in this country, the plight of immigrants and their quest for a better life is probably not all that important to "me" - their lives don't really matter. Or, If I am healthy, living in a nice house with a good job, homelessness and poverty doesn't really affect me, and while I may sigh over the plight of people dying of Ebola in Africa, it's not my problem - their lives don't really matter. 

The lesson of history teaches us that any culture that allows itself to to be infected with a spirit of rugged individualism is always on a downward slope. Disregard for the common good is a sure predictor of decay and ultimate demise. 

Reflecting his own "Buddhist sensibilities," Christian monk and author Thomas Merton once observed:

Everything that is, is Holy!

The life-force, the energy of "God" is at the very core of all that exists - everything and everyone is interwoven into a dynamic, complex, cosmic web. All the many are joined in the ONE and we all belong to one another - that's just how nature is. And so whatever happens to any single one of us happens to all of us. 

All lives matter, all life matters, everything that is, matters.  

Black lives matter, White lives and Brown lives matter. Old people, young people, sick people, healthy people, rich and poor, immigrants and citizens - all matter.   The lives of Christians, the lives of Jews and Muslims, atheists and agnostics - all lives matter. The lives of animals and plants, the life of the ocean, the air we breath, the water we drink - it all matters.  

All lives matter, all life matters, everything that is matters, because, 

Everything that is, is Holy!

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