A Light in the Darkness
I reflected earlier on my love of Advent; how it brings me back to cherished lessons from my Catholic family, connects me to centuries of my people yearning for meaning, and provides necessary moments of stillness to ponder the darkness and treasure the flickers of light that will sustain hope through the winter.
This morning as I write, candles lit, reflecting back in the dark morning windows I listen to one of my favorite Christmas songs; I can hear my Dad, gone now too many years, singing:
The people that walk in darkness have seen, have seen a great light. And on those who dwell in endless gloom, a light has shown. Gentle Night, The St. Louis Jesuits
The morning. The Mourning. There is plenty to mourn. I have been sick for days recovering from my covid-booster but of course am only grateful for how this tiny suffering will protect my life and the life of others. I re-read a beautiful piece from John Farmer, Jr reflecting last year on how Advent and Hanukkah “teach the virtue of patience, of waiting, of how personal self-sacrifice in the short term can build spiritual resilience” and urging us all to wear masks as a way to care for “the least of our brothers”.
As I emerge from the fog of my fever I mourn 782,000 deaths in the US — and worse, 5.2 million deaths in the world. (Brilliant biting political satire by Karan Menon on Tik Tok best explains insidious vaccine apartheid) In the US, Black people are 2.5 times as likely to die from Covid as white people, the chilling title from the Population Research Bureau says it starkly US Racial Inequality May Be as Deadly as the Coronavirus .
Where to look for hope in the face of this devastation and injustice? Top of my list is Heather McGee’s transformational book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Proper Together (Yes I am giving you the link to BUY copies; really a perfect holiday gift for friends and family.) Heather McGee makes policy and social justice work accessible and invites us all to look clear-eyed at the impact of racism on all of us and offers a truly hopeful vision of what and how we can re-build together.
McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims,: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we fnally realize that life can be more than zero sum.
I have been thinking of Heather’s book for many months since I read it earlier this year but what jumped out at me the beginning of this Advent was this brilliant post:
This #JusticeForAhmaud came from people speaking out and showing up. Remember we went 74 days without an arrest; this was never inevitable. Gratitude to al. To the runners, the #BLM activists, the preachers, the local citizens, all who said that his life mattered.
For indeed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is only one tragic example of a deep darkness that denies justice to Black and Brown people ravaged by violence in this country and the conviction of his killers finally a source of light and hope that justice can be won. McGhee’s reminder is that this did not come from passive longing or blind faith in a system. It came from organizing, insisting, persisting. And the powerful piece about A Better Glynn and Elijah Bobby Hendersonpublished by the Washington Post and CRITICALLY The Current, a non-profit independent news room serving coastal Georgia tells the story of some of the real people, taking real risks and achieving some measure of justice. As we breathe a sigh of relief that Ahmaud’s killers were convicted, let us not be so naïve as to think it just “happened”. Blood sweat and tears birthed this outcome. The Good News is this means it can be done again and again.
Advent is not a passive time. Advent is a re-charging, a delving deep into the reality that surrounds us and drawing deep on faith in one another that we can work and will into existence the light we need to survive and to build a brighter future for all of us.
Note: No one in my family will be surprised to get a copy of The Sum of Us for a Christmas gift. What we also do, urged by my mother, is to resist the crass commercialism of the season and put less strain on workers in warehouses and shipping and give gifts to charity in each other’s name. One of my “clicks” this morning is to The Current for as documented this week, “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is not only about the Washington Post but the precious but precarious tradition of local and independent journalism revealing truth and light.