Stormy Weather

A storm is brewing in the Gulf. Right now, Cristobal is meandering over land near the Yucatan. It won’t stay there forever. It is forecast to make its way toward the Louisiana coast on Sunday. It’s not likely to be a strong storm. At its worst, forecasters agree it could be a nominal hurricane.

Considering the fragility of our coastline, though, it may be just one more weapon that will be like a battering ram on our area. The boot in the picture above represents what used to be the coast of Louisiana. I couldn’t find a good image on the internet to show what it looks like today, but much of coast of southeastern Louisiana is gone. The land that I grew up on is increasingly being eroded and falling away. Open waters lap at our doorsteps, in some cases, quite literally, as people are forced to move to higher ground.

That’s one reason that I live where I live today. I didn’t see the sense of buying another house in New Orleans, after coming back here after nearly a decade in Honduras. New Orleans is surrounded more and more by open waters rather than protective wetlands, or near my hometown on the bayou where land is lost everyday. At least where I live now, a bit north and east of New Orleans, I don’t have to worry about small storms such as what is being projected for this weekend.

There are other storms. Some of the storms brewing are not tropical at all. There are political and racial storms that are raging now in our country. What do we do with the information we have about racial injustice and protests? Do we, as white Americans, just put up a social media comment in defense of justice and go along our way as if nothing has happened?

I’m guilty of doing that. I just posted a few things about injustice. I felt better. But what if I were really committed to understanding what’s happening in our country? I think I need to seek voices from the black community. I need to listen. There are battering rams of injustice and inequities hitting our nation right now. If not addressed, they will weaken our democracy.

Whenever we have storms in the Gulf, our motto is be prepared. We do what we can to protect our homes, and we ride out the storm as best we can. (Evacuation is still the best choice for large storms). I need a game plan, too, to prepare to understand my black brothers and sisters.

I plan to watch Just Mercy, a film about racial injustice in the penal system. You can rent Just Mercy for free in June through a variety of digital movie services in the US, including Apple TVFandangoNowGoogle PlayAmazon Prime VideoRedbox, the PlayStation Store, VuduMicrosoft, and YouTube. Join me in watching the movie.

I am also part of a book club that will be reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I want this moment in history to count for something. I was only 6 years old in 1969 when the public schools in our school district were integrated. I was too young to have a voice, but I now see what a seminal moment that was for our town. I don’t want to be in denial this time, like my parents were in the 1960s.

In my morning devotions today, from Pray as You Go, the text was from Jesus’ words about the two greatest commandments. The first is to love God. The second is to love our neighbor. If we don’t grapple with social and racial inequities in our nation, I fear more storms are going to hit us. It’s time we met the storms with foresight and prudence.

9 thoughts on “Stormy Weather

  1. OK, I’m not wishing that tropical storms to blow your way. I realize all the problems storms and flooding have brought on Louisiana. BUT, you see, storms on the Gulf, or on the Pacific side of Mexico, are generally harbingers of rains in the central, and right now very dry, part of Mexico.

    So let’s split the difference and pray that Cristóbal veers a bit to the west, brushes against Mexico, and gives us some desperately needed rain, and then heads east again without causing any damage to anyone.

    Judging from past racial incidents, I’m afraid that the present soul-searching and hand-wringing by whites about the injustices against blacks will gradually fade away without much substantive change in our institutions. That sounds awfully cynical, but in my experience, it’s what generally happens.

    I listened to “Pray as you go” this morning and found it very helpful. I’ll try to make it part of my morning routine, and my spiritual practice, which needs some framework.

    Thanks.

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    1. i lived briefly in Mexico a long time ago, but I remember the dry season. I wish that this storm would head west but I think it’s headed straight away towards us. As far as racial injustice, you may be right. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t hope and work for better outcomes. I am glad Pray as You Go was helpful to you. I used it for a while some time ago. I would just lay in bed, before rising early in the morning, and play it on phone. Very peaceful way to start the day. Buen suerte on your spiritual path.

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  2. Like you, I have been giving a good deal of thought about social justice. I fear that we are in another cycle of virtue signaling that will get sucked up in political manipulation leaving us all in about the same place we were before George Floyd’s death. (The fact that I had to look back on my post today to remember his death is a pretty good sign that I am already cycling off.)

    One of the great strengths of American society is that the government interferes only infrequently in our lives. Therefore, important issues, like racism, are not well-suited to be solely resolved by governmental action. Hatred is a personal failing, and it has to be dealt with one heart at a time. That means that each of us has a duty not merely to signal virtue, but to actually exhibit kindness.

    During the past year, I have noticed people that I admired for their fight against bigotry turn into bigots themselves — using the same vocabulary as the people they once opposed. If we want to put a stop to hate, we need to start reaching out to the people around us who are stoking hatred. And that may start with people who we think of as being our allies. And then we reach out from there.

    Jesus did not tell us to seek redress from Rome; he sent his disciples out as messengers to the world — one heart at a time.

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    1. If the death of George Floyd is fading already, you should check the New York Times from a couple of days ago, for a shocking refresher.

      Times reporters stitched together video clips, from various sources and from the different angles, that show the last 12-15 minutes of his life; of Floyd’s handcuffed body going limp after four minutes or so; of the cop, resting his knee on Floyd. with nothing more than a robotic expression on his face; of the other three cops standing by or looking away; of the bystanders screaming to the cop to get off Floyd.

      It’s bone-chilling. It’s cold-blooded murder in real time. You don’t soon forget it.

      I agree that the sin of racism and bigotry ultimately resides in people’s hearts and souls, but it’s also up to government, which is charged with establishing all other forms of permissible societal intercourse, to address the causes of racial prejudice, including police brutality.

      For us to stand on a street corner preaching racial justice and kindness is not going to solve the problem. Wish it would, but no.

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    1. It has never occurred to me that the answer to our current distress, i.e. civil unrest, is a problem to be solved by government. However, I think we have a leadership vacuum. We lack leaders, whether they are political, religious or just socially important, that can unite and encourage the great majority of Americans in regard to race relations. We saw the lack of direction from the government and other leaders in the spring when Covid-19 was the major issue. It pains me too that so many people who I know and respect have such hatred and bigotry in their words and actions, which of course, reflects their hearts.

      As far as the oncoming storm, I have become reconciled that every new storm will damage our fragile region. I know that the towns that I lived in, attended school, and worked in are washing away quite quickly. There’s nothing we can do. If the Mississippi River would be unleashed from the levee system and allowed to flood the area each spring as it did before the 1920s, then the land would be replenished by alluvial soil deposits. However the levee system can’t be undone without massive loss to cities, towns and communities that have become permanent settlements in areas that were probably never meant to be permanent places for people to live. And we can’t undo the damage done by oil companies that built thousands of miles in canals throughout the region. There are so many areas that were actual lakes and bays that are now just part of the gulf.Those were places i fished in with my father as a child. Islands that I walked on as a youth are gone. It’s impossible to rebuild what is lost. It’s just a matter of time before the “boot” disappear completely from the topography of Louisiana. But, thanks for the good thoughts.

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