Driving along to lunch with a friend, I turned to C-SPAN radio as I drove south on the Beltway. Their broadcast of live floor debate from the House closely resembled some of the more unruly Model UN conferences I attended in high school.
Moderating this debate was a fatiguing task for the chairwoman, who quickly called successive representatives out of order, then yielding, more disorderly conduct, yielding again, outright shouting. Gaveling down unanimous consent requests, the situation devolved into a chaotic banter.
Disheartened, I listened on as our elected officials in the House held a nation captive in their petulance guised as ‘politicking’ and bickering passed off as floor debate. Suddenly, the chairwomen gaveled this buzz into recess. The airwaves silenced and I assumed the House simply shuttered itself to regain composure. A beat passed.
Then the C-SPAN announcer reported shots fired at the US Capitol building. Driving along I glanced to the right and saw the Capitol’s dome rising above a large office complex closer to me. I was far enough away to drive along unaffected, but close enough to begin tearing up at the violence ravaging this city.
Obvious examples like today’s incident when the ‘pop, pop, pop’ sounds were reported or the Navy Yard shooting only weeks ago come to mind, as do the ravages of gun violence in our communities that more frequently take lives by homicide and suicide.
Less obvious is the culture of DC filled with the violence of words and dehumanization that leads a Tea Party-backed Congressman to attack a Park Ranger for enforcing the shutdown he caused. It is a town fueled by a currency of profit and power over people’s lives when we literally allow people in the US to die daily because spending “must” be cut.
Minor partisan gains, or even simply ego, is hoisted as the god we worship in the District while we allow millions to go unfed, unclothed, uncared for, and unloved day after day after each fucking day. The dozens of homeless and marginalized individuals only yards from the offices and chambers of those who are leaders in name only cannot stir the consciences of politicians long ago purchased with corporate donations.
Perhaps almost six years trying to act justly and love tenderly in DC leaves my cynical and frustrated, but…
Is it really too fantastical to believe all would be welcomed with wide arms and open hearts? That all would be given their ‘daily bread,’ such that poverty’s afflictions were no more? That love is abundant enough our world could place the person first before all else, ending alienation from and enmity towards one another?
Lately, I’m unsure how to respond, how to act in changing DC’s violent dynamic – but in that, I’m learning true prayer. Driving along the Beltway to dinner, I can only tear up and offer God simple, visceral prayers. They’re not the polished prayers I’ve learned in theology nor crafted for ministry, and all they say is this:
We need Christ’s reconciling love.