Thirty days in Charleston.
Phone calls and texts and nonstop media, until we’ve heard all that can be explained and realize most cannot.
Confirmation: Rev. Clementa Pinckney is among the dead. Flashbacks to our conversation less than two months ago in the very same church basement; to the afternoon when we tried, we tried to hold a Requiem for Racism.
Frenetic flights… and then a packed-to-capacity church, lifted to its feet with soaring rhetoric that we can curb gun-inflicted violence. An arena, erupting to support the call that removing the Confederate flag is long past due.
We sing from the depths of our souls: We Shall Overcome — not some day, but toda-a-a-a-ay.
Streets are sanctuaries overflowing with signs and sounds of united spirit in the blazing summer sun. Bomb threats disperse the crowds, but only briefly.
Facebook fills up with Gil Shuler’s spot-on rendering of the state flag of South Carolina, now Midrash.
Exquisite tributes: Nine doves… nine sweetgrass roses… nine church bells punctuating the end of a city-wide salute rung from Holy City steeples.
Businesses open their parking lots; volunteers hand out cold water bottles along the road.
Politicians, activists, clergy, civic leaders – members of the community who know each other, who often contest one another – unite around one podium. Our call: “It’s time. Time to take the flag down.” The “from off” part of me wants to say, “This is the easy stuff.” The tears and joy in the eyes of my colleagues, those who have been a part of this battle far longer than I, tell me otherwise; this is a very big deal.
Case in point: The Citadel joins the rolling tide.
Facebook colors those SC state flag profile pics rainbow. Actually the Supreme Court does that – THANK YOU!
Mayors, ministers, the President bolster the city and the victims’ families with strong leadership – and love.
Life doesn’t exactly return to normal – MSNBC doesn’t call on a “normal” day (and I’m more than fine with that), but the intensity begins to diminish. And, in some ways, it’s the most challenging time. The demands of life accumulate, but the reserves of energy to tend to them are utterly depleted.
I make the mistake of reading some of social media’s “comments” on the sentiments of those whom I deeply respect; on my own.
The Confederate flag comes down on a Friday morning to spontaneous applause in the synagogue’s sanctuary that night. One attendee walks out; this is his community and I’m his rabbi, too.
NOW has been all-consuming, but What’s NEXT becomes increasingly compelling. Thus far overwhelmed by feeling, the “thinker” in me needs to know more. So I read… In Search of the Movement, The New Jim Crow, Someone Knows My Name. And it hurts, it hurts to know.
A justice ministry of blacks and whites; wealthy and poor; Christians, Jews and Muslims doesn’t begin in the wake of the tragedy – already 30 congregations strong and growing, we meet to continue our work with renewed focus and zeal, drawing hope from relationships already established and ties that continue to strengthen. And we hug one another; we all need it.
As we reach the end of thirty days, we work – and it is work – to leave the bitterness of grief behind. But not the beauty. Like the ritual of Havdalah – whose bright candle and sweet spices help the holiness of Shabbat linger – we strive to cherish and sustain the goodness, for there was much.
If only we could have found it some other way.