Friday, November 6, 2009

Half Staff

The rain has stopped long enough to put out my flag. It's at half staff, the way it flies more frequently than it does at full staff.
We mourn the loss of life and the deeper tragedies at Ft. Hood, Texas.
Nidal Malik Hasan. Officer. Mental health professional. Major. Member of our armed forces. U.S. citizen by birth just like most of us. Muslim, unlike most of us.
I'm glad I have known other Muslims besides those seared into the minds of most Americans by 9/11, homicide bombings, interfaith sectarian bloodshed, honor killings and forced marriages of young daughters who seem to barely qualify as property.
I'm glad that Jean and I lived for 2.5 years at the very beginning of our marriage as tennants of the generous and loving Aydogan family: Muazzez and Ali and their three kids: Esen, Ali and Sedat. Ali was a farmer just like my Dad, but he lived in town. And they opened their little apartment building to us and, before us, to other GI's who didn't live on base. They didn't rip us off by jacking up the rent. They welcomed us and respected us, as did countless merchants who often insisted that before we did any business we first have tea.
Then there were the two Muslim Turks who helped me out of the ditch after a motorcycle accident in August 1972 as several carloads of Americans passed by. I know the parable of the Good Samaritan from the ditch-level view, not that of a spectator two millennia removed.
Likewise, I am glad that I know Christ followers other than the KKK, slavers, the IRA and the Orangemen, the popes and kings and armies of the Thirty Years' War, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials and the Crusades, apartheid, the 1990's bloodshed between Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs who spoke the same language simply written in different alphabets.
May I never be judged by them. May our faith lead us only to humility, forbearance and compassion. Not to judgment but to new resolve.
A trail of bread crumbs, the agonizingly clear signals in hindsight, so often have us asking, "Why didn't we heed the warnings given by this person?" A legitimate question. Too easily we deny because the person is an active church member or occupies a position of authority.
How much of the buildup to the Holocaust was rationalized, ignored or just plain denied?
Now, shall I be judged by the Holocaust because the blood in my veins is 100% German? And will our president be blamed for this tragedy because of his absent father and his middle name Hussein (blessed)? Already, in the minds of many, I'm sure that connection has been made.
That's how the Holocaust started. And spread among literate, educated Christians.
But not all lives giving warning signals of potential tragedy actually end in tragedy. There are countless stories of signals heeded, help offered and received, healing experienced, lives rebuilt and restored. Mental health victories are the great unrealized and unexplored frontier of our lifetime as a civilization. Some of them are on the streets of downtown Portland, and I am blessed to know and to pray with some of them on Sunday evenings. Their lives make no headlines and attract the hot breath of no cloistered pundits far away.
But they are banner headlines in heaven causing the angels to sing.
Lord, give us wisdom, humility, compassion and your peace. Amen.

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