What is the Benefit of Charlottesville?

What good can come out of the Charlottesville tragedy?

The white supremacist rally was a stunning event. It shook the psyche of a large number people both in the United States and around the world. It was a blatant and unabashed display of racist and divisive rhetoric by purveyors of hate who exchanged Klan hoods for Nazi helmets.

Also staggering and perhaps more disconcerting was the tone of the response to this appalling event from the leader of the free world who suggested that that people standing up for equality were the moral equivalent to the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. The response received a full throated endorsement from the former head of the KKK.

I happened to be in Washington D.C. seeing my son off college when I became aware of the news of the killing of 32 year old Heather Heyer, a member of a counter group that stood for equality and freedom. We hold in prayer Heather’s family and love ones as well as affirm spiritual comfort for them.

While the Charlottesville misfortune was shocking, fortunately it is not the pervading consciousness in our society. At the same time, most people are not so naive to believe that hate groups have disappeared from the American landscape. It was not too long ago that the remnants of the Jim Crow era of the South were still evident. I personally witnessed the leftover signage designating separate bathrooms for “white” and “colored”. I once saw a roped shaped in the form of a noose – a symbol of lynching – purposely left by someone with apparent ill intent.

So this issue has never been totally handled.  Nor will it be until humanity reaches full enlightenment, or at least approaches it.

While action is important, words also matter. When America and the world and needed words of hope, unity and a vision that affirms the better angels of our nature,  what we received was a message from top leadership that reflected a consciousness unmolested by a moral compass or sense of enlightenment.

So what can we do?

I happened to see a satirical skit by comedian and actress Tina Fey who is well known for her Saturday Night Live performances. In the midst of her humorous bit, she noted that perhaps the best thing to do is not to counter-protest the white supremacists and their allies, but to “let them scream into the empty air”.  While she didn’t explicitly say so, she was suggesting rather than resist them we ought to ignore them. This is based on the belief that what we resist persists and what we oppose and fight, we give them more power.

Yet history reminds us that after the atrocities of Nazi Germany, people asked “Why wasn’t there more resistance?” This is not to say that the rise of Nazi Germany and the emergence of modern day hate group from behind their computers are equivalent.  But it does bring up the question, “How should we respond to this cancerous energy that represents the shadow side of humanity?”

Perhaps the answer lies in the strategy practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King in which they addressed the consciousness of hate and division through nonviolent resistance. Dr. King called it “Soul Force”. It is a force that doesn’t fight against anything, but is used to support what one is for and aligning one’s energy with that. This likely the reason Mother Teresa, when asked why she won’t participate in an anti-war rally said, “I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally I’ll be there”.  A subtle but important distinction.

Incidences like Charlotte give us the opportunity to go back to First Principle (God) and align with the healers everywhere so that we can amplify and anchor the qualities of Spirit in our world.

We are not there yet.

The founding fathers of the United States, many of who were Masons and students of spiritual law, did not claim that they created a perfect nation nor were they perfect people themselves. Many of them were slaveholders. What they did say is “here’s the blueprint for a perfect nation, do your part to make it happen”. We have made much progress. And we are encouraged by these words of Dr. King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.

A crisis such as what took place in Charlottesville, presents a great opportunity. When the news brings to our attention the sense of separation that seems to pervade the human experience, we are aware that it has been going on for a long time. The bigotry and the seeming distance between people has been part of the human experience for thousands of years now.

But it was for this purpose we were born. We are here to look for the evidence of, align with and be the channels for God’s good so that we can realize our oneness. The challenges that we face are being brought to the surface so that which has been swept under the rug and hidden in the shadows can be brought to the light to those individuals who are holding the high watch. Those individuals are you and me.

This is our charge. This is the benefit of Charlottesville.

James Trapp

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