I live about 10 miles south of a really sleepy little suburb. Over the last 15 years, it's been hit by the auto plant closing, and then the recession & foreclosures. But through it all, it has maintained a sense of community and of shared values - education, church, family.
They're not so trusting of their government.
Unlike most of the surrounding communities, in Ferguson, (as someone quipped recently) the only people in the region who weren't aware of the culture of corruption were (some of the) white people in Ferguson. And the corruption of government in that part of the metro area, esp in the police forces, is legendary enough that we tell stories about it.*
Watching my town come apart at the seams, the racial/ethnic divides become stark, clear lines, watching everyone have an opinion on it, and finding that sometimes, people I otherwise like and respect could not conceive of the cops being anything but justified, even as we all *know* that there is a problem 'up there' with honest policemen,** made me sick. I was scared, and ashamed. It felt like the only thing I could do was pray. Praying that it would end peacefully, praying that no one else would get hurt, praying that grief would not turn to anger, that people would listen to each other.
The whole first week, I had no time. I followed what I could via Twitter, but I support four mammals in my household and had too much that had to be done, obligations that meant that I couldn't take time 'off' to go north, and that I really couldn't afford to get arrested, issues that mean that more stress, and more stress on my body, from walking, from running, from tear gas, would compromise my ability to provide food and housing to those in my care. And that makes me feel guilty, and incredibly aware of my own privilege, that I could choose not to be a part of the protests. That I could choose to put the phone down, and not live in that world, and deal with problems "closer to home."
One of the things that gave me hope, though? Was seeing pictures of my bishop, my priest, and a not-small segment of the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, as white-bread as we tend to be, walking in Ferguson. Watching them, and huge numbers of other people associated with MCU unite behind the people of Ferguson, walking in search of justice. They have a thing, now. It's called Praying with Our Feet.
And it gave me hope, and confirmed to me that I hang out with the right people. People who would walk for me, be the presence I could not be. Be the presence of Christ in a tense, ugly situation, working, walking for both peace and justice. Organizing for people in need, asking the community what was wanted, listing, trying to supply it, listening again.
That's the church I joined. I am so very, very grateful.
*It is illegal to cause a stoplight to change from green to red without a yellow light. It is especially illegal to do so if you're a cop waiting to write a ticket to someone for running a red light. As it happens, it is also illegal to halve the period of a yellow light for the same purposes. You know what? No, the cops don't get to have control of the stoplights any more. Seriously. No, really. No, you too. All of you, stop that.
**there are good cops, honest men and women on the police forces in the municipalities of North County, who are trying their level best to create good, solid communities and be good solid role models for young men and women who may or may not have many options. I am honored to know several, and weep for them in this situation, torn by conflicting forces pulling in a lot of directions, telling them conflicting definitions of 'right'. I pray that they discern well.