Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

Can a nation so wounded by its divisions survive? (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) For those of a certain age, Thanksgiving week will always be the week President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

In the same way, Sept. 11 will be the day terrorists brought religious extremism to American shores.

Families have memories; schools, towns and states have memories. Every now and then something scars the "national memory," and we encounter ourselves as a single people. We grieve as one or we celebrate as one.

Those moments are rare, and maybe they should be rare. It would be artificial for a people as divided as we are to pretend to a national consciousness. We don't agree on the facts, we don't agree on our own history, we don't agree on meaning and ethics, we don't like each other, and we certainly don't trust each other.

Now, to echo President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg 151 years ago, we are met on a great battlefield of the wars we wage against each other. It isn't a field in central Pennsylvania. It is the nation itself.

Cities are set to explode over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and a small moneyed set wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.

The question, then, is the one President Lincoln posed: Can a nation so wounded by its divisions, hatreds and manipulated fears survive? Are we setting the stage for even more repressive surveillance, even worse predations by the government-owning few, even more weapons in unstable hands, even worse despair among the many?

Lincoln's answer was to stand on the battlefield itself, just months after blood started soaking into its soil. I think that must be our answer, too.

We must not give in to seasonal jollity, to the annual pretense that everything is fine and that what isn't fine can be made fine by shopping at Target. We must stand on the battlefield itself -- the streets of Ferguson, Mo., the hiring line when a job opens, a health clinic when battered and raped women show up for help, a voting station when the brown and black are turned away by clever stratagems -- and there on the battlefield to see the wounded.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.


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On this battlefield, where many live daily but which the privileged few can't imagine from inside their distorted-reality bubble, we must ask who we are. Not what advertisers say we are, but who we actually are.

Are we in the crucial stages of becoming a peasant society, where a few live large and the rest fight for scraps? Or are we a "land of the free and home of the brave" that has temporarily lost its way and allowed our fears and greed to discourage our common sense?

This is precisely the world that Jesus was born into. We know where his loyalties lay. We who claim his name need to get out of the checkout lane at Target and onto the battlefield where our future is being worked out.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

YS/MG END EHRICH

Comments

  1. I might make a small disagreement.

    We’re not wounded by our divisions. We are wounded by those who wish to divide us, and who do so in order to promote their lust for power, money, and division.

  2. Cities are set to explode over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct.

    There are three problems with this statement:

    1. Cities are not set to explode.

    2. There is no ‘worsening racial injustice’ outside T. Ehrlich’s imagination.

    3. There is no ‘worsening police misconduct outside that imagination either.

  3. We’re not all that wounded. The wounded at this time are people who invested in residential and commercial real estate in Ferguson, Mo.

    The problems we face here are in the intersection of culture and vested interests. It’s doubtful that clergymen have much to offer to ameliorate that, much less clergymen who are bad at that trade.

  4. Actually, police making a practice of pointing automatic rifles at unarmed civilians is something new. (Please note that these are military rifles and do indeed have a full-auto switch.).

    I am not taking a side against police here, just pointing out that people who know about guns have been shocked by the above practice. You just do not point a loaded firearm at someone unless you have a really good reason, such as danger to you or a third party.

    I do appreciate how dangerous police work is, and how often they put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.

  5. That’s nice. Now provide us with statistics demonstrating there has been an increase in homicides by police officers and that the increment is attributable to the use of ‘automatic rifles’.

  6. Sir
    The issue is elementary firearms safety training.
    Question: the National Guard was called in. Did they point rifles at unarmed civilians? That is not a rhetorical question, I truly not know the answer. You have been following this more closely that I have, perhaps you might want to comment. If all police and guard units think such actions are OK, I am probably wrong and out of touch.
    Best wishes

  7. Tom,
    You are talking like a nut case. A man who sees himself as the hero of his own novel.
    Re:”Cities are set to explode over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct.” “Are we in the crucial stages of becoming a peasant society, where a few live large and the rest fight for scraps?”
    Many left behind, including far too many young black people, are justifiably upset. They simply do not know whom to be upset with. They should be upset with the education establishment that fails to teach useful skills, and the politicians/ media who exploit them.
    It is well known how to train folks to be employable. Learn to be on time, dress neatly, drop “attitude”, know how to read and follow instructions, pay attention and work at the job, avoid distractions and socializing on the job. Not everyone can acquire the necessary skills, but most can. Refusing to expel the disrupters and transfer the incapable, may be popular politics, but it keeps the community dependent and vulnerable. I was taught that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. This was wise far beyond my youthful understanding.
    I have thrown papers (3 yrs), worked in a paper factory (1yr), retail sales (3 times), service technician (twice), Child Care officer (jailer 1yr)), Social Security benefit authorizer (1 yr), outside sales (3 yrs), dept. store department manager (2 yrs), bookmobile driver, law clerk (2 yrs), and self employed Attorney for 25 years, School Bus driver (3 yrs). I have never drawn unemployment.
    My parents paid for my freshman year of college. Then their finances collapsed. All the rest I have managed on my own.
    I see the most disadvantaged as those who have not been required to work at acquiring a basic education, but have themselves been the victims of the “victim society”. They have been excused from responsibility for themselves, and not offered the tools necessary to become independent. These aimless ignorant individuals have little chance of achieving a life of which they can be proud.
    Little wonder they are angry.

  8. I doubt the unite states has survived . its not my first love any way . Christ is..

  9. Only Christian’s have the real message of certain Hope in this post united nation called the united states of America that is now even more divided in so many ways..

    And that certain hope is in Jesus alone .
    the CERTAIN HOPE Jesus brings is so much much different than just wishful hope that only nations can bring

    http://www.whataboutjesus.com.

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