Shaking Dungeons/Living the Fergusons
Dungeons can be in our minds where we hold people captive to the illusions we have about them, but we think they are real, they are true, they are valid, and they sanction our treatment of them. . .and ourselves. They can be where we hold ourselves captive and believe the illusions we are told about ourselves because we have allowed others to carve out hollow legacies for us and for the generations yet to come—for all color of children. And moral thought collapses into a meaningless drivel of hosannas or inconsequential theological escape hatches that only serve to reify demonic stereotypes in religious God-talk.
Something has finally fallen off our collective shelves. The outrage, the anger, the fear, the misunderstandings, our inability to know one another let alone understand each others’ experiences has caused something to snap in so many of us; such that we cannot and will not let go of speaking out against racialized violence and militarized police forces. How do we shake the dungeons in our country, in our world? How do we shake the dungeons in ourselves?
In a letter to his nephew, James, the writer James Baldwin urges us to engage violence with love. But he fails to tell us that this can conjure up ghosts, the terrors in our lives, that come as dancing specters, haunting goblins, or moaning trolls to remind us again and again of that we stand in the line of white-on-white, black-on-black, brown-on-brown, people-on-people crime. We are the people of the strange fruit of lynching on southern and northern and midwestern and western trees.
And we are the ones who can stop this cavalcade of evil.
Enough. Enough of only caring about those who look like us, talk like us, think like us, exist like us. Enough of acting as though our lives are the only ones that matter and everyone else should get a grip of their bootstraps and pull themselves up. Really? Do we really want to go there when folks have been warehoused by our values that confine them into stereotypes of pathology such that we look at them and call them demons and make them dangerous to us so that we can create postmodern slave ships but prefer to call them prisons and practice illegitimate force that masquerades as justifiable homicide and believe that if we say this enough times and hear this enough times we will begin to believe it and live it? Is this really the dungeon we want to make our home and decorate it with breathtaking pictures of fear, mistrust, abuse of power—an air castle of naiveté and denial?
We must say enough and work to change our communities, our local government, our state government, our federal government—and ourselves with a justice framed with ornery hope and love that do more than sit by the side of the road wondering “Why sit we here? Why sit we here until we die?”
Shake the dungeons—and our chains of hatred will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and our chains of indifference will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and our chains of voter disenfranchisement will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and our chains of police brutality will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and chains of racism and ethnocentrism will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and the chains of rationalizing sexual violence will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and the chains of senseless, pointless wars will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and the chains of gerrymandered legal systems will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and sexism, homophobia, transphobia and body loathing will fall off.
Shake the dungeons—and we will work and build a better tomorrow.
Shake the dungeons—and we will eradicate denial, defeatism, despair, desperation, dashed hopes, and idle platitudes.
Shake the dungeons—as we declare and then live the truth that all lives matter and that a color coded justice system is not justice at all.
Shake the dungeons—and we will not be quiet, sit down, practice our manners, raise our pinkies, and clutch our pearls when folk are being gunned down, silenced, and incarcerated because they are too dark or too poor in the nation that has the highest incarceration rate in the world. . .in the whole wide world.
But we must remember that love does not always let things come so easily at times. Because to love means we have opened our eyes, hearts, minds, souls, very spirits and now see and feel and touch and smell the joy and the agony that is living in the fractures of creation. And we realize that we often live in the small and narrow spaces of life that stunt our growth and demand far too little of us because far too little is expected from us—or far to little is what makes us and keeps us comfortable.