This is a sometimes discouraging present. Just as we begin to recover and get our bearings and start to try to answer the deadly forms of hatred and violence that are our common fare, another mass murder with its wicked annihilation and cavalier disdain for life that is rough-edged by welling cries of retribution for the previous violence that made no more sense than the most recent one erupts into our lives once again. And somehow, we must find the resolve to meet this violence. Some of us will choose to deepen our resolve to keep building the beloved community. Some of us will take to the streets to decry fanatical edges of religion masquerading as devotion. Some of us will shrink inside of ourselves a bit more and begin to find comfort in the folds of fear. Some of us will respond with fear and loathing. And some of us will try to keep walking to the drumbeat of justice and hope.
All these far too human responses and more will be how we respond to the obscene loss of life in Sri Lanka as it joins a mournful history of how we cloak hatred in a misbegotten cause and then justify the evil we commit—Thessalonica in 390, Granada in 1066, the massacre of the Latins in 1182, St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572, Adana in 1909, Babi Yar in 1941, Charleston in 2015, New Zealand in 2019—and this is an incomplete list for the ways in which our inhumanity finds expression through killing those we have ultimately “othered” such that they are no longer seen as human but mere fodder for our false claims of protecting the purity of a religion, a nation, a world, ourselves.
I have no answers here, but I do know that despair is not the response that will give us the gumption to pick up our harps from the willow trees of hopelessness to will ourselves and others to continue to work for justice and peace. How we get there, I do not know. But I do know that we must get there by joining with others and doing the work the world needs to resist and eradicate hatred. A dear friend reminded me recently that God is able. I believe we must ask ourselves, are we?
Emilie M. Townes
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society