An Insurrection Reflection

I had nearly completed one blog when the not-completely-surprising insurrection at our nation’s capital filled our TV screens today. Someday I will share with you how the Holy Breadcrumbs image is no longer sufficient for our time, but for today I just need to share some of the initial thoughts that are bouncing around in my head like an out-of-control race car.

riotI have this sick feeling in my stomach. But not from what you would expect. Yes, I feel sick for how far we have fallen in trusting our democratic processes. Yes, I am sickened that people would resort to violence in order to make a point. Yes, I feel sick that the absence of the peaceful passing of the presidential baton will probably haunt us for years to come.

But that is not what is disturbing me the most. In this year of reckoning with the white privilege and racism of our society, I feel sick by what this insurrection has taught us. If all things were equal the first conclusion we would have come to is that our nation’s capital is much less secure than we ever imagined. We would have immediately jumped to the conclusion that if a mob of thousands could so easily vandalize and occupy the chambers of the Senate how vulnerable might we be to Russians and Chinese and Saudis and Iranians? We would have seen this first as a security failure.

George Floyd 2But we all know that the issue is not that our nation is vulnerable and lacking in security. What happened today is the result of white privilege. George Floyd died for attempting to pass a counterfeit bill. Do you think he would have been allowed to step onto federal property, scale a wall, smash a window, and gloat with his feet on the desk of the Speaker of the House? How far would a group of Black Lives Matter protesters have gotten today had they had the same intentions? How about a group of bearded men and burqa-clad American Muslims?

white dinner partyI admit, I have been slow to fully comprehend the issue of white privilege and structural racism. I have been as guilty as the next white person who looks at himself and says, “Couldn’t be. I almost always have good intentions.” But this year is teaching me something—I don’t have to be personally racist in order to participate in structural racism. I don’t have to demand privilege in order to be the recipient of privilege.

If I am wrong, please call me on it. But I just can’t seem to make sense of how a country with the mightiest military and security in the world could not protect its nation’s highest leaders from domestic criminals. I would love to find some other explanation. But increasingly I am having to accept that America’s great sin is racism and white privilege.

I just can’t picture it—thousands of black or Muslim or LGBTQ people somehow getting the upper hand against our nation’s mightiest security. I just can’t picture it—a black man sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk without a bullet in his chest. I just can’t picture it—Muslim men scaling the walls of the Capitol without machine-gun equipped helicopters closing in.

There is a lesson here. Either we are more vulnerable than we thought or we are more racist than we thought.

My friends, we have a lot of work to do.

Thank God for a God who doesn’t give up on us.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

16 thoughts on “An Insurrection Reflection

  1. Brilliant insight , Brian! I hadn’t thought of it in that light, me who’s been supposedly studying racism for the past 4 or 5 years. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Thank you, Brian. Why did we let a white mob surprise us? I was in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training today when all of this happened. There we were talking about the lynching trees of the last century and some horribly racist advertising from 10 years ago and I know I was thinking, or hoping, that we’d come a long way since 1960 and almost eradicated racism over the past decade, until the unfolding events today demonstrated that the state will show far more restraint in dealing with a white mob than they will with a brown one. I’m upset about what happened today and while I will “point the finger” at others, I also see that white privilege is the water in which I swim and it will take conscious work every day for me to be part of the solution. This is too important to ignore, in our nation, our church and our communities.

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    1. The worst part was the encouragement of current president for people to gather in order to disrupt the ceremony about to take place within. Finally some staff in the white house requested president to ask everyone to leave (but thanked them for showing up, apparently in one last effort to deny the reality of the election). I wish Congress would let Mike Pence be president until January 20.

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      1. Thank you, Pastor Rebecca. I totally agree, although I have my reservations concerning Vice President Pence. I can say that at least Vice President Pence
        had the background, as both a former senator and governor, to know proper procedure and decorum. Like the rest of us, I believe Pence was taken totally off guard!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your insight and reality. As a faith body we are looking for ways to process our disbelief. Writings, music and prayer will calm the soul so our brain can open to move forward with the changes so desperately needed in our world.

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  4. Well said with wise words. I am on my knees asking God to guide me to make a difference and for my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren to act on these words.
    Thank you and God bless

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  5. Brian – Thanks for speaking up, speaking out and calling out things we need to address. I appreciate the courage to speak the gospel truth.

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  6. Thank you, Brian. If you saw this ugly discrepancy, and we saw it, I have hope that many more saw it and recoiled. Praying that this bleak view of our nation, watched by all the world, helps us heal and mend.

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  7. Hmmm. Our security personnel can in fact deal relatively non-violently with crowds of people actually intent on doing harm and disrupting legitimate governmental processes. What beneficial lessons can be transferred to other circumstances? Let’s learn them and act accordingly.

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  8. Appreciated your insight offered to all of us, due to the last two days of violent insurrection. And now we are left with our own personal work to see how we fit into the structures that created the path leading to the White House.
    Again, Thanks Brian

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  9. Thank you, Brian. From my perspective the Church has been too slow in responding to the challenge of American fascism of fear, hate, and racism. The Church has been missing the prophetic message…..there can be no peace without justice. Today’s Caesar is a narcissistic, sociopathic, sadist who demands worship and those who follow Jesus as Lord must call out today’s Caesar by name – Donald J Trump.

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  10. Thank you Brian! Totally agree! Righteousness and supremacy does not serve the common good. Grateful white privilege is out in the open and so blatantly wrong. We all can examine our shadow prejudices, hidden from us. Work to be done indeed.

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