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HAGER: What we think will make us feel better is a lie

• Jan 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM

As I write this, another school shooting took place — two more dead and several wounded as parents fought with police because they had come for their children and couldn’t get past a human barricade, as rumors swirled that there were kids who had gotten out hiding in the forest.

A mentor of mine said last weekend that if we can’t figure out how to live nonviolently we will self-destruct. He went on to say that Jesus and MLK both told us that, and that they both proved it true.

Can we stop for a moment believing that we have the absolute last and correct word on any political issue, when in reality we primarily get our news either from partisan news sources or Facebook? How can anyone have a real grasp on what is happening in our nation and world amid kitten videos and goat memes? The strident tone of folks who disagree makes it seem as if they somehow know some truth that the other side has somehow not had access to. It often seems that this version of “truth” is what shores up what we always believed anyway, what reinforces our darkest and worst fears.

Even in our post-modern world there is still truth; I insist upon that.

Obama is an American. He is not a jihadi warrior intent on bringing down all crosses in Washington, D.C., or trampling Christianity. We’ve done that trampling pretty well ourselves; we didn’t need the first black president to do it for us. We pimp the Gospel every single day when we twist it and twist it to excuse our own fear and our own bigotry; our own never-recognized privilege.

We’ve sold out Jesus so many times in defending child molesters so we could keep the majority of our house, we sell out Jesus every time we put a political agenda ahead of a Gospel that is full of all things that good people, religious and not get behind: health care for all, food benefits for people who are hungry, welcome to strangers who have no home to go back to.

Just tonight, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, the supposed leader of the evangelicals, looked out at all of us in our living rooms and announced that they have given Trump a pass, “a mulligan” on his infidelity to advance a nasty and draconian political agenda.

But I insist that so much of this isn’t a political agenda, but is about being a decent sort of person. One who will examine fear and racism when their ugly voices speak inside our own heads instead of insisting that we are the least racist person we know.

This land is not our land, our ancestors took this land by force and bloodshed and new diseases that mowed down entire populations of natives. Our ancestors warehoused those folks just like we warehouse black men and then forgot about them on reservations that were miniscule in size to the sacred lands these people used to claim.

This land is not built on religion; it’s built on freedom from it and of it. It’s built on people who had lived through decades of monarchs and church rulers who could change all of the rules at the drop of a hat about who could pray and in what language and whether there could be candles on the altar during church. It’s built on that longing for a place where the religion of the day didn’t change all of the time, where one could live out their own personal piety. This was supposed to be a place where no religion was enforced, no longer dependent on the whims of any ruler, elected or not.

Our kids know what to do if there is an active shooter in their school. And our kids are dying in their school rooms because we cannot stop the venom of our own self-righteousness long enough to come together and demand that something happen; because we cannot accept the absolute fact that the amendment we hold so tightly was never meant to include what we think we have a right to. How could it have been, when the weapons we have now didn’t even exist then? Show me your well-formed militia; all I see is little boys and men with guns mowing down schoolchildren.

Our culture of pervasive, selfish, Gospel raping for the sake of what we think is ours, what we think will make us feel better is a lie. We the people of America do not deserve anything any more than a little child walking away from the smoking ruin of Aleppo or fleeing warfare in Africa. We don’t deserve it more than the people who were displaced so that a new square of shops and condos most of us can’t afford can be built in Spring Lake, as though those people didn’t matter as much as a “landmark” restaurant.

See the lie. See that every person has rights, not just Americans. Every child deserves to be safe in their schools, every single one deserves to be fed. This isn’t about conservative and liberal, and it shouldn’t be about politics. Protecting our kids, the liberty and well-being of all people, is the work of every single one of us. Only if we work together can we achieve a world where all can be free.

— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist

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