Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When You Can't Find the Words

Last week I did sit down to write but the words would not flow.  First the death of Robin Williams hit me hard.  I am GenX and I grew up with Mork and Mindy, loved Dead Poet Society and growing up in the Bay Area I regularly  passed the sign on the highway that Williams adopted.  He was just there as a part of my life, bringing laughter and poignant truth.  His struggle with depression drove home a deeper awareness of my own.  I began talking about it a little more openly.  Depression is hard, it saps your vitality and makes you weary.  That kind of soul weary that no amount of sleep can cure.

I have deeply appreciated all those who have shared publicly their stories of depression.  Each story gives a name to this disease that affects so many and takes many lives.  Stories like this one that describe well my own experience.  One thing that has bothered me, however, in the coverage is the notion that if Robin had just reached out he would still be here.  Now don't get me wrong posting hotline numbers is critical for those who may not know there is help, who may think they are alone particularly teenagers and young adults.  In my experience young people struggle both with depression and a lack of life experience that would let them know that things will change, that life is a journey of changes.  Robin Williams was 63 and I am quite sure had the best modern medicine and therapy had to offer.  None except Robin himself know what happened the morning he took his life, the morning that he believed the lie it would not get better.  I am sure he knew the numbers of some of the professionals that he could have reached out to that day. Yet on that day he could do it no longer and our world has lost a brilliant, talented and deeply caring man.  His family lost a loving husband and father. While this will never be listed, Robin Williams died due to depression, an illness he had battled for years. 

Secondly there was the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.  Another young African American youth gunned down because white America fears men of color.  Officer Wilson drew his weapon and fired 6 shots into the unarmed Michael Brown.  His body laid on the street for 4 hours.  A community erupted with rage and grief that another young life was taken and the response of the overwhelmingly white police force was to meet them in full military riot gear. Yes there was some violence and some looting and media made no differentiation between peaceful protestors and looters.  More violence and arrests were made.  As a white person I must speak out and say that no more black men should die because white people are afraid.  Black lives matter and we must root out the poison of white privilege that has left not just Michael Brown dead but Trayvon Martin and so many others whose deaths don't make the news not to mention those who are wounded, beat up and locked away with no media to tell their story.

As a person of faith and religious leader I cannot remain silent.  Another young life has been ended and another family is grieving.  We do not live in a post-racial society and racism is the reason Michael Brown is dead as much as the bullets in his body.  I have privilege in this country because of my skin color. I didn't ask for it and I didn't earn it. I was born into a system where some lives matter more than others.  If I am to believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that we all have worth and dignity, than I cannot accept a system that privileges white skin over all other colors.  It is not about feeling guilty or shoving my privilege under a bushel as if I didn't have it. It is about knowing I have it, acknowledging there are things I accept as "normal" that are not true for far too many others.  It is about speaking up and saying that we have to stop the war on young men of color. We have to say not one more and never again and we have to mean it. How long before we really mean it?

So I may not have 1000's of readers here but I can speak out to those I have.  I once again found my words and my voice and I will use it to speak out.  I pray for the family of Michael Brown and all the other African American families that lost friends and family members at the hands of police and vigilantes. I pray for the family of Robin Williams and all who loved him.  I pray for those who also struggle with depression.  We live in a hurting world, that needs our healing and our voices for change.  Will you join me?