• Jim Brown

There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You

I’ll start with something we can agree on, unless you’re a cable news executive or junkie who loves high ratings and one-sided coverage. Our country is an absolute mess right now. Many of us are increasingly divided, bitter, uncompromising, tribal and increasingly violent. It took a while to get here, but we’re here. I’ve been promoting civility the best I can for several years and will continue to do so. As I’ve shared before, civility isn’t weakness. It’s the opposite. It’s having hard conversations, listening deeply, and yes, speaking truth to power. No time like the present! The murder of George Floyd was obviously disgusting and evil. “I can’t breathe” seems to be the tipping point for many Americans who are flooding the streets. I remember the late 70’s and studied the late 60’s. It seems like we’re at a similar juncture. People are fed up, and I’m with them. More are speaking up. There are many ways to voice concern and the rightful demand for significant change. Here's one of my favorites.  In May 1969, Fred Rogers invited Officer Clemmons, a black police officer on the show, to take a foot bath with him in a small plastic wading pool. When Clemmons joined him, the two men were addressing a well-known injustice … blacks were “supposed to be” in separate pools, which had been in the news throughout the 1960’s and earlier that week, five years after the Civil Rights Act was enacted. Maybe you remember the episode? Officer Clemmons sings his beautiful melody, “There are many ways to say I love you.” Mister Rogers thanks him, and then asks if he can wash and dry his friend’s feet, just like Jesus did after the Last Supper. Talk about low volume being high volume ... I’m hearing some say the murder of George Floyd was horrible, but that "we must stop the riots and looting." On it’s face, that’s a fair statement. But a friend shared something that showed how this sounds to some who understandably are focused more on justice and equality. I share for your contemplation.

Others have been emphasizing that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once called riots “the language of the unheard.” On its face, that’s also a fair statement. But it’s lost in the larger context of his other words, that “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.” He was right to say also that as long as “America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.” A prophet, he was, in the name of love. So here we are. What’s next? I’m unsure. But I’m not unsure of what I will and will not support. That includes supporting state and federal leaders from both parties who over the last 24 hours praised peaceful protestors for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out against George Floyd’s death and systemic racism, while praising National Guardsmen who put down their shields in unity. It does not include using force to disperse peaceful protestors, which happened almost simultaneously in our nation’s Capitol. It does include strongly supporting law enforcement against rioters who seek to destroy others' property and spread anarchy.  It’s not either-or. It’s both-and. When we are better, we will pick better leaders. Once again in this beautiful experiment called America, it's on us, one American at a time. Will we demand that our police forces root out racist cops? We better. Will we demand that riots are not who we are as Americans? We better. Will we debate and address our problems and reject authoritarians and divisive leadership? We better. We better get better. We better demand better. And hopefully along the way, to remember that there are many ways to say I love you.

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