Last night the Whitehouse turned off its lights for the first time in history. The president hid in his bunker while the country he promised to “Make Great Again” burned. There’s no explanation but cowardice, and no voice has emerged to fill in the leadership gap. America desperately needs hope, but is left with only anger — two sides with no recourse but to point and shout at the other.
Part of me wants to attend a protest, and add my voice to those calling for justice. Part of me is saddened by the anger and violence that often results. (We settled for donating to a bail fund.) But the narrative we’re getting from the news is flawed. Not all protests have led to violence, and not all violence has started with protestors. This is a nation that is in tears — and sometimes tantrums — but there is no question that what’s going on is the result of deep pain.
We’re all a little on edge, after months of being locked down by a virus we don’t really understand. But the reality is, the effects have been disproportionately distributed among parts of the American population, creating fuel for a fire that only needed a spark to ignite it.
When you add to that a string of crimes that are blatantly racially motivated, you’ve provided the ignition — and no one should be surprised that this blew up in our face. Those reacting with self-righteous indignation about property damage are ignorantly denying years of systematic injustice. Individual Americans may largely be innocent of intentional racism, but we’re all participants in a system-wide failure to ensure every human being gets the same fair shake. If you live in our neighborhood and don’t believe me, come with me to East Cleveland and see first-hand results.
Between the pandemic, and the social injustice it has highlighted, America is facing a reckoning. We haven’t done all we could — and I’m a part of it. We haven’t loved our neighbor, we haven’t cared for the “least of these”, we haven’t lived up to the ideals this nation was created with. Instead, we’ve withdrawn from our position of global leadership, and turned inward to fight about our right to go shopping and get haircuts — while ignoring our neighbor’s right to a fair trial.
All is not lost, though. This is still a great country — despite its flaws. And there’s no better illustration than this weekend’s space launch. More than just a technical triumph, and more than just a multi-culture, multi-discipline team working together to reach a challenging goal: this weekend’s events are the result of a bi-partisan, cross-administration effort. The end of the shuttle program was a sad day in America, but the Obama administration’s move to allow commercial investment in the next generation of technology created new hope. That hope might have died without the Trump administration’s decision to double-down, and invest in it. Granted, “Space Force” sounded a little funny (and made for an entertaining new Netflix show), but Trump did good here — and that should be called out too.
For me, and many others, space represents a reaching out. In the same way we are like little children, crying in pain or screaming in petulance from this playpen called Earth, we are also learning to pull ourselves up, to stand on wobbly feet and understand that we are not the center of the universe: we’re just a tiny part. For those who believe in God — or at least something greater than ourselves — its hard to look out into the void of space and believe that our current condition is all there is. It puts our childish problems into context, and provides hope that we can do better as we grow up.
Part of growing up is learning to work together. We have real problems right now… We have a virus with no cure. We have a latent racism that has not truly been healed. We have a wealth gap that is un-crossable by too many people. But if bi-partisan government and private industry can work together to get a couple dudes into space in less than 9 years, maybe we can solve some of these other problems together too…
I believe that part of the solution is a recognition that we are fundamentally broken at a level we cannot fix on our own. Humans are not naturally good — tough situations make that painfully obvious. Our natural tendencies aren’t toward making things better; we really have to work at that. And like children, we need a loving parent to help us figure it out. True hope is found beyond the human condition. And a loving Father waits with open arms to pick us up, and show us what He intended life to look like.