We awoke each morning to the sound of grinding corn; our host, a widow, was making her daily tortillas. I was reminded of the Lord's Prayer: "give us this day our daily bread."
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding security and his desire for a border wall. His declaration came on the one-year anniversary of the slaughter of 17 people and the wounding of 17 others, mostly high school students, in Parkland, Fla. Trump might have seized that date as the bold beginning of a broad and honest conversation about guns in our culture and in memory of the Parkland victims and the nearly 1,200 children who have died of gun violence since then. Instead, he seemed to deflect the issue by changing the subject.
Not long ago, as fall was turning the leaves on the trees to an array of spectacular color, I was driving south on I-35 toward the Twin Cities. There was not much traffic, and my cruise control was set for the speed limit. In my rearview mirror, I noticed a man on a motorcycle approaching me considerably faster than I was traveling. Just as he was passing me, he turned, glared at me, and flipped me off. Wasn't I going fast enough for him? Or didn't he like my bumper sticker, which reads, "Resist Hate?"
Seriously? An AR-15 in a children's toy and book store? Or was it an AK-47? No, no one was carrying a large weapon inside the store. Rather, one was being worn, proudly displayed across a T-shirt. Beneath the gun was "I support the Second Amendment." So do I. But I don't support bringing AR-15 rifles, or even their likenesses, into children's toy and book stores. What was this person thinking?
"You don't understand the Bible!" The supporter of President Donald Trump, at the Trump rally in Duluth on June 20, hurled this accusation at me as I marched past him, not three feet away. Could we not have had a conversation? I was marching. He was hurling. "You don't understand the Bible!" My sign, lifted above my head, read: "Love Your Neighbor: Your Black, Brown, Immigrant, Disabled, Religiously Different, LBGTQ, Fully Human Neighbor." "You don't understand the Bible!"
I thought I was prepared. I watched videos about the planning of the new national memorial in Montgomery, Ala., for victims of lynchings. I read the book about the lynchings in my hometown Duluth, which occurred on June 15, 1920. I viewed scores and scores of online photos of lynchings and slide shows accompanying the song made famous by Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit," its lyrics including, "black bodies swinging in the southern breeze." I twice co-led a course on African heritage literature for University for Seniors. I thought I was prepared.
What does it mean to respect the flag? What does our flag represent? Our flag represents "liberty and justice for all."
Throughout this past season of Advent, our church, along with hundreds of thousands of churches across the globe, sang the Magnificat, Mary's song in response to the news that she would bear the Son of God. Her voice soars, "God has looked on the lowliness of His servant ... He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit, he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly, he has fed the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." (Luke 1:46-55)