Have you ever felt like the only cow on the farm who knows how hamburgers are made? Did you ever wonder how no one seems to connect the dots, even with their lives on the line? The writing is on the wall, and we remain willfully illiterate. Therefore, we are passive participants in our own demise.
We have to be realistic. In the martial art of Aikido, they teach that the most powerful weapon one can have is an accurate assessment of reality. No filter, no distraction, just naked truth. Therefore, any ideology, philosophy, or paradigm that distorts and filters reality is dangerous and must be discarded, or else that ideology can be weapon-ized against you. Cows are captive to barbed wire, but humans are captive to ideas.
Reality has kicked our teeth in again with Charleston. Never mind that Dylann Roof, a disturbingly familiar, troubled and racist white male, sat in Bible study with his victims for an hour before the massacre. Forget that the Emanuel AME Church was co-founded by slave revolt leader, Denmark Vesey. What strikes me is the fact that the Confederate flag still flies at the capitol building, and we thought we were safe. We let our guard down to the reality of this country
Perhaps our non-violent ideology turns the horrific nature of racism into background-noise. Dylann’s crime was despicable, but so are streets named after Confederate generals that Blacks in Charleston must drive down. These are not just street signs, they are warning signs. It’s like Jews living in Germany under a swastika flag, driving on streets named for Hitler’s generals. When put in those terms, it’s pretty clear. Yet the Blacks in South Carolina have been convinced that these conditions were just a part of “Southern Heritage.” From 16th Street Baptist to Emanuel AME, we have not learned our lesson. Racism has one inevitable conclusion.
The natural fact is that Dylann Roof did what he did because he could: because he had the conviction to carry it out. That’s the nature of power. Just like dropping the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, the culture of violence in White America spares no means to victimize the “other.” No physical thing could have stopped him but a bullet to his head, a gift most “good” people are not willing to give those who have tortured us for centuries. We are then, yet again, left to pick up the pieces.
Shorter AME Church (the church I was raised in), hosted a candle light vigil for the victims the night of June 18th. Reverend Timothy Tyler, who lost a personal friend in the shooting, broke into tears recounting the life of his fallen comrade. The church was packed with leaders from all walks of faith. Jews, Unitarians, Muslims, Yoruba Traditionalists, and even the Sikhs showed up in full regalia. A ‘Who’s Who’ of Denver’s power players showed up to lend condolences. Terrance Carroll, Angela Williams, Mike Johnston, Albus Brooks, Reginald Porter and Brother Jeff showed solemn support. While playing the Djembe, I watched a slide show of the victims that ripped my heart out. All of them, so familiar, so natural, so alive in their pictures I could almost hear their voices. I fought back tears and played on.
Suddenly, as the prayers went up in solemn conviction to the most high, a thought struck me like the lightning crashing outside the church spires that night: ‘What if nobody is coming to save us?’
‘What if all of these prayers are for naught?’ The thought crushed me inside. I looked at all those faith leaders, thinking of the masses and congregations they represented and how their devotion would be but a hollow ritual if it were true.
But then, the thought did something else to me: If we fought for good in this world like no one but us could make it right, we wouldn’t have to wait to see Heaven after we died, because this world would be Heaven already. “Savior-ism,” is the background music to our decisions. “Somebody’s going to clean it all up.” The belief that someone will come from on high and set right the wrongs actually lessens our estimation of our own impact and short-circuits the problem-solving process. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The “Saviorism” ideology is a lens that distorts not only our true responsibility, but the dangers that we face, and how to truly handle evil-doers like Dylann Roof.
We cannot pray and forgive our way out of this. There is no one coming to save us. No messiah, no prophet, no “chosen one,” no Mahdi, rapture, no aliens will come down and set right the wrongs of the wickedness of the world. That’s our job.
The Emanuel AME members did not die because they were late on tithes, back-sliders into sin, and fell out of “favor” with the lord. They were not sacrificial lambs for the sins of the church or society. It’s not that they didn’t pray hard enough or that “Satan” wanted to test the resolve of believers. They died because racism kills…period.
An accurate assessment of the situation says that we forgot White Supremacy honors no sacred spaces, no temples, no synagogues or mosques. In fact, White Supremacy built most of these places of worship. Therefore, we are effectively livestock for this power. We are raised for the slaughter, for the sacrifice, for fleecing and for profit. That’s a predator-prey relationship. Predation is totally legal under universal law! It’s why the first law of survival is self-defense. If any creature does not have the means to effectively deter a predator, it goes extinct in time. Most believers even refer to themselves as the “flock,” not seeing the full ramifications of this identity. Their ideology provides a context that ultimately profits the masters of the institution. If you watch a church service on mute, you’ll see a person who looks to be yelling, people getting emotional, and then those people opening their wallets. That’s the raw mechanic of institutionalized religion.
Along with these ineffective ideologies is the demoralization of violence. Gandhi and King’s legacies are used to pacify the masses by the very people that killed them. Violence is just a force, like gravity or electricity. It takes violence to deter violence, which is why police never show up to a hostage negotiation with Bibles in hand. The good must learn how to fight. The good must learn how to kill, and do this without being consumed by fighting and killing. This is why martial arts are taught with philosophy, so you not only know how to strike, but when…and when not to.
Ultimately, a Messiah or Savior would cheat humanity out of its potential. We don’t even use all of our all latent abilities, and cry for someone to clean up this mess. Why would a creator come up with a human being, then not give the challenges those humans need to delve into their true power? Notice I said “Creator.” ‘No savior’ doesn’t mean no God. Something had to create all this, and we are latecomers to this creation. We share a power with that God, and that is the power of our minds. If you want the super natural, look no further than what is behind your eyes. The human mind is a force that literally supersedes the natural world. We bend, shape, and wield the blind forces of nature, to ends that suit us, and we have to start thinking big picture.
There is a world beyond our five senses, but there is a reason we cannot see it – because we are on Earth to figure out what to do with Earth. The planet and universe are like a piano. There are harmonic and dis-harmonic energies. They are impartial, but in the process of mastering them, we master ourselves. We learn virtue, patience, discipline and love: the true jewels that can be taken when we leave. All else is doctrine, interpretation fodder for holy war.
What is a human being, really? Every tragic incident and victory teaches us a little more to answer this question. We have great powers of destruction, great powers of benevolent creation. Thus, the final frontier is to explore the universe within. It is the true Alpha and Omega of our experience here in this world. It is in the garden of the mind and heart we sow the seeds of triumph or tragedy.
When we finally get it right, humanity will collectively thank God that no one came to save us from ourselves.