Ferguson and Divine Discontent

A few days ago these crazy storms raked across Indiana. I woke up at one thirty scared (which is unusual because I like storms) just in time for the power to go out. I opened the blinds to watch the lightning, lit a candle, and got on Twitter, where I scrolled past the latest police shootings to this – August 7-10. Ferguson. #FightBack365. The one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Protests.

The lightning flashed and the candle flickered and I made the decision at three in the morning to go to Ferguson.

The next day the power was still out, so we headed to Charlie Brown’s diner for biscuits and gravy and bacon. The wait staff was overloaded with all the people without electricity and the ceiling was leaking into a bus bin in the booth next to us. I liked the way I could fit my whole hand into the handles on the coffee mugs.

“Do you remember what I said last night?” I asked Brian. “About going to Ferguson in August?”

A moment of quiet, then, “Yeah.”

He didn’t say anything else to me as we finished breakfast, paid, and headed home. I could tell he was scared and I wished I could change my mind or not care. I’d been wishing a lot lately that I didn’t care, that I could have moved through this last year with the same peace and conviction that it’s not my problem like a lot of other white people I know.

Because “divine discontent” doesn’t feel like discontent. It feels like grief and rage and buzzing energy and insatiable hunger. It disrupts your life until you have no choice but to disrupt the lives of those around you.

I still went to work with a knot of fear in my stomach. I was convicted, not stupid.

Brian was speaking to me again by the end of the day.

“If you find someone to go with you, then you stay the night. If you don’t, you just go and come back on the same day. Deal?”

“Deal,” I said, and we shook on it.

“I support the cause you’re fighting for, you know,” he said.

I did know. I just really needed to hear him say it.

“…And there was a Lakota man yesterday, and a sixteen year old boy a few days before that…”

Brian and I were in the car on the way to my dad’s birthday party. I was talking about the latest police killings. I heard about them every few days or so now.

“They’re just not getting it. They think this will blow over and go away. It’s not going away.”

Brian turned the radio on, right to NPR news talking about the video recently released of officers in 2013 gunning down three black men because one took off his hat. There was a settlement paid. Better training provided, supposedly. The officers are still on duty.

That night on my Twitter feed – another one dead at the hands of the police, a black woman named Sandra Bland.

I couldn’t sleep. I finally drifted off four hours before I had to get up for work, wondering how God felt knowing every single terrible thing that happened on the earth.

I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.


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