Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tears and Fabric

Of the MLK quotes that have found their way into my writing over the years, these lines, from the Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, have resonated most often with my own thinking:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. 
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about two parts of that connection and the weaving. When we were in Atlanta for my brother-in-law’s memorial we stayed with a friend on her family’s farm out near Stone Mountain. The story of the remnant 60-some acres of what was once a 600-acre farm that has been in a family since the 1940s is one of being woven together. The story of Stone Mountain itself, with its tortuous history of KKK gatherings and its weird relief of Confederate heroes, has its own inescapable network of connections.
These days the farm where we stayed boards horses, and out in the middle of one pasture stands a seismic station. It can detect an earthquake happening on the other side of the world. The stable earth we stood on in Atlanta is the same rumbling earth shaking beneath the feet of others standing half a world away.
Our friend told us about finding some unexploded ordnance from the Civil War on the farm a few years back. She had professionals come out to take care of it which they did by blowing it up. I remember watching the video on Facebook. It was impressively loud. Yet it didn’t register on the seismic monitor. The explosion scratched the surface of the earth but it didn’t cut deep enough to register at the level where we are all connected.
The war that left behind the unexploded bomb and the carvings on the nearby mountain, on the other hand, touched far deeper places.
On a community and family level, the death that had brought us to Atlanta also left a deep wound that tears at many hearts. No seismic monitor can measure the depth and breadth of this shaking (although the site meter on the blog does show that more people read the eulogy to Terry than any other single post in the more than 10 years I’ve put scribblings here.)
More than that, thought, the overwhelming response of several communities – art, music, faith, work, and family circles – takes measure of something beyond our finest instruments. We are bound together in a single garment, and whatever affects one directly affects the rest of us as the fabric of our lives is rent.

The personal is political, and these connections carry profound implications in all kinds of ways. From the straightforward reminder to hang up and drive, to take driving as the deadly serious responsibility that it is, to the reminder that a single death in Atlanta – or in Aleppo – shifts the ground beneath all our feet.