It’s an old hymn, a melancholy hymn that begins with the line “O come and mourn with me awhile; And tarry here the cross beside; O come, together let us mourn; Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.” (Faber) Jars of Clay dropped it on an album a while back and now I’m caught humming the melody as I read the news and mourn again. Standing at the scene of out-of-control violence, let us tarry and mourn.
For all our wars we’ve fought, our deep national pride and our vaunted founding documents that speak of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… we come here again. A place of violence. Images of jackboot policing that do not come from some history book about regimes we fought in liberty’s name, but from a school in our own country. A school. Mourn with me.
Mourn with me for what we do in our schools. Mourn with me that we create systems of violence and conflict instead of learning and participation. Mourn with me that adults can escalate situations with children to such violent ends, and then we have long discussions on what the child did to precipitate the problem. Mourn with me that we then divide and fight one another over why such violence is needed and who carries the most blame… we are all to blame. We are addicted to violence.
We don’t know how to give one another dignity and respect any more, so we are left fighting for the torn scraps of dominance. We don’t know how to be a community any longer so we violently police schoolrooms and throw children from chairs. We don’t know how to teach any longer, so students are arrested instead. Mourn with me.
Watch again as the student is thrown to the ground. Watch as she is thrown across the floor into a wall. Watch as the officer then pins her to the ground with his knee. Now, this is your daughter. This is your granddaughter. This is your sister. This is your friend. This is your neighbor. This is you. What did you just learn about police officers at the age of seventeen? You learned that they are violent, brutal and just waiting to unleash on you. You just learned to fear.
Watch again as that officer grabs a seventeen year old girl and flips her desk, hitting another student’s desk in the process. Watch the officer take a good hold, plant his feet and with almost a running start fling her bodily from the desk across the floor into a wall. Watch him again leap onto her back and pin her to the floor wrenching her arms behind her back. Mourn with me for this man. Mourn with me for his anger and rage that lashes out at a student. Mourn with me that such misdirection and rage is given a badge and a license to attack. Mourn with me for every single voice that will defend his brutality and blame his victim.
Don’t say, “She should have…” She did absolutely nothing to escalate the situation to that point. She was not physically capable of a fraction of that officer’s violence. The punch with her closed fist that people are taking about is the flailing response of a child grabbed by an adult and physically wrenched around by her neck. Don’t say what she should have done, for nothing she did or didn’t do was deserving of that response from the officer. When you blame the victim for the actions of the brutalizer, you rip away the last shred of dignity and respect from the victim. When you blame the victim you empower the brutalizer and set the stage for the next victim. This man is a monster of our making.
Mourn with me that this is America. Mourn with me that this is policing. Mourn with me that we’ll see the same thing today and probably again tomorrow. Mourn with me until we learn and grow and detox from the adrenaline rush of violence and dominance. Mourn with me until we see a day again when we can teach, live in mutual respect and dignity for one another, and create a community that is not fearfully policed and brutalized.
Mourn with me at the violent spectacle we make of ourselves.