Healer of our every ill
light of each tomorrow
give us peace beyond our fear
and hope beyond our sorrow ( Hymnal: A Worship Book, #377)
Still reeling from the Atlanta killings, our country has now seen gun violence migrate west of the Mississippi within a week. Boulder. Ten killed. More innocent lives lost. A grocery store. People going about their business of shopping for food or getting vaccinated. More men with guns killing people in mass shootings. It is the 103rd mass shooting in the U.S. in just 3 months of 2021.
I confess, I am angry. I am sick to my stomach. Again. I see gun loving, “my rights not your life”, second amendment screaming folks and I don’t get it. They have taken the body politic by storm and flushed out the shadow of this country. We’ve elected officials who hold guns as sacred and believe we are only free if everyone gets to have a gun, carry and conceal (or openly carry their weapons of choice) anywhere, anytime.
But this isn’t just about gun violence, is it? In soul tending terms, when violence has become an epidemic, we have become dissociated from our souls. Thoughts and prayers will only suffice for a short season. We must move towards action. Reconnection with what’s deepest in our humanity— our very souls— is hard work.
The foundation of this country is eroded and disfigured, riddled with disease—rotten to our very core. Brown and black people have been saying this for centuries. White people, it’s way past time to preach this from our white pulpits, speak it to our white public officials, move out into the public square, from our white ghetto’s. It’s time to stop leaving it to black and brown people to do the heavy lifting in transforming this national nightmare of violence, this abomination of our desolation.
Resmaa Menakem, a trauma therapist, wrote “My Grandmother’s Hands“. In it he rightly shows us that the U.S.A. was founded on “white body trauma”. The European continent and it’s white imperialist system was soaked in the blood of brown, black, white, female, male, gay, old, young, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim and the “other” —who needed to be stamped out by torture, dismemberment, colonization, religious violence, rape and dismemberment. From the Crusades, and the Pograms, Inquisition, Reformation, Witch Trials, and violently seizing and extracting resources while missionizing the “dark continent”—the colonizers and “discoverers” came to the new world with the same tools of violence.
Resmaa Menakem says, “as a result, we will never outgrow white body supremacy just through discussion, training or anything else that’s mostly cognitive. Instead we need to look to the body—-to the embodied experience of trauma“. (Resmaa Menekem, My Grandmother’s Hands. (Las Vegas: Central Recovery Press) 25. He lays out what every trauma therapist knows— that violence of any kind lives for generations in our brainstems, guts, heart, lungs, stomachs, spines. In other words, our living, breathing bodies. Whole systems in this country now are inhabited by generational violence, from our police to our capital buildings. And our places of worship. Let’s talk about religious violence.
Menekem also lays out two kinds of pain as we respond to these killings. The “dirty pain” of avoidance, blame and denial.. Or the “clean pain” of facing the ugly disfigurement that white supremacy continues to inflict on people called “other”. So I acknowledge my own white body trauma and my white settler ancestors who came as part of the colonizing effort here because of their religious trauma.
I want to heal. I want my brothers and sisters of color to heal. I want white body trauma and all body trauma to be healed and stopped in its tracks. I want us all to wake up from this nightmare.
As Resmaa points out, trauma and resilience both can live side by side in our bodies.
Which will we choose?