The Ruffian that is Injustice
As our country smolders over racial injustice spawned by yet another episode of bigotry and brutality a call goes out once again to correct the injustice. It’s a call that is centuries old and one that continues to find both old and new paths to bring injustice out into the open. It’s what we do when things get bad, we drag the ruffian by the scruff of the neck and pull him into the light long enough to point fingers at him, turn red in the face and not only vow it will never happen again but make certain others are just as outraged as we are. We produce a few more laws and even more policies. We start more groups and create more movements and invent new terms to describe the state of things and, you know what? Things seem to get better. A measure of guilt and shame and indignation have been properly applied and we silently pat ourselves on our back and just as silently the ruffian slips back into the shadows.
I’m not a fatalist nor more comfortable than the next person at putting my head in the sand. I want change, I pray for change and I want to encourage others to change but it is often not clear how to see that happen. My voice is small among the masses. My posts and tweets will mostly go unnoticed. My rants, even more so. I can craft a carefully worded statement and trot it out with the rest of the statements out there and add my voice or that of my family, church or organization to the mix and hope for change. But then I wonder. Will the ruffian even notice, much less be more exposed as a result of my efforts?
I can become better informed regarding injustice. I can read people’s opinions (there are a lot out there) and I can pay attention to stats and look for trends but that, too, is an onerous task. Should I embrace the views of my favorite author or news source? Should I follow the direction of politicians, my denomination or my alma mater? And which injustice should I stand up against? There are plenty out there. It was then that I realized that I am an individual who counts and I have a story that is impacted by circumstances. I will have frustrations with injustice different than the next guy so it is those injustices that I should tend to. A plan is taking shape.
So, I decided to name them – expose them as it were. I started in a safe place with the clear recognition that I treat people differently who are different than I am. I am attracted to those like me and less interested in those who aren’t. I show preference or favoritism to the more familiar and to those who share my values. I can and should do better. Then I moved on to my community – the area in which I live. In my work I recognize the very real abuse that goes on, out there, against children – the powerful against the powerless and it makes me angry. While I can’t correct this injustice I can make sure that those kids are loved and know of a love much greater than what I can give. Okay…I’m feeling like I’m getting a little traction here, maybe even scoring a few points against the ruffian. So, I power on.
I hear stories that I don’t want to believe are true, but are. Stories of human sex trafficking, not in other countries, not in other parts of the states but right here up and down the I-5 corridor and it makes me sick to my stomach. Another abuse of power that takes vulnerable teen-age girls (and younger) and launches them into an unspeakable life of slavery and addiction right under my nose. Why isn’t more being said about this? Why aren’t we all, with one voice, demanding that this be stopped? Maybe those who do good work in stemming the tide of this abuse are more deserving of my dollars than, dare I say it (?), my own church. I can make that change.
Even closer to home, I spend a lot of time these days contemplating the growth of the twin babies ever changing in my daughter’s womb. The medical technology of today amazes me with news and specifics about every nuance of their growth and before I know my grand-kids names or hold their little hands I love who they are and what they will become. And then a cloud drifts overhead when I contemplate those unborns in the midst of becoming who they will be, but instead are prematurely and violently yanked from the womb. As I think of that injustice I am not angered or sickened, I am outraged! I wonder what rationale could possibly make sense when two opposite destinies await two, otherwise, similar residents of a womb - on the basis of a choice. It’s then that I feel like storming the streets expecting to join a throng and together making a difference, only to find silence… and then it hits me. This is when “silence is consent”, isn’t it? And to my shame I am as guilty in my silence as anyone else.
Keeping the ruffians at bay is not easy, is it? It’s not easy for me. Maybe it helps when we understand what we are up against. We are at odds with our human condition. A state of being that tends to elevate ourselves over others. Sure, hate is involved, but so, too, is a love of comfort and personal enjoyment and individual rights. We are broken and won’t be made right again until our God sets things straight. Sin is the bitch we don’t want to talk about. But that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to seek justice, to love and not to hate and to move from outrage to change. May God give us the power for that change and the patience when change is slow in coming.