Cross-Fire

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

[In memory of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, killed in the crossfire by police on March 13th, 2020 when they broke into her home in Louisville, Kentucky.]


Blessed the meek, it is they who will inherit the land.

Matthew 5:5

Seeker,
Are you strong enough to be gently tenacious in trying times?

I was a young man in the early 1980s,
crossing Belfast city
during deeply troubled times.

From the bus stop I watched
whirring helicopters
announce armored personnel carriers.

Strings of camouflaged soldiers emerged,
hugging doorways, scanning streets
through crosshairs.

Two of them pursued me
to the upper deck
of the bus.

The crucifix around my neck,
advertising my denomination,
targeted me for trouble.

Pointing his rifle,
with booming profanity,
a soldier interrogated me.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Scared speechless,
I stared at the muzzle,
so close to my body.

In the mounting tension,
I noticed the other barrel
gently trembling.

Looking up,
I caught the wide eyes,
of a soldier my age.

One disarming glance
captured centuries bloodied by strife,
sectarian and state sponsored.

Scared like me,
young like me,
caught like me.

Like me, I could see
he wanted off that bus;
to make a break

from spirals of repression and rebellion,
with their myths and martyrs,
hallowed heroes, villains and so many victims.

Surely he did not wish to succumb to a sniper’s bullet,
or shoot at rock-wielding children?
Nor did I desire to be caught in the crossfire.

When finally I alighted,
I was determined to leave behind on that bus
a heritage of rebel songs, slogans and religious bigotry.

I sought a new identity, to inhabit a wider world;
a deeper peace, to no longer be afraid and angry;
a larger love, to set me free.

We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world … there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.

Dorothy Day

Four decades on, in another inner city,
I keep anxious vigil under
the staccato throb of helicopters and screaming sirens.

As young ones stand boldly,
amid clouds of tear gas
and the boom of shock grenades,

my weary hearts sinks
and I shudder;
after all these years trapped on that bus.

Spirituality is not learned by flight from the world,
by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.

Meister Eckhart

Borrowing from highland clans in my homeland,
hooded figures spread terror in this land
by setting crosses aflame.

Still, across this nation,
racial domination reigns with systemic supremacy,
bolstered by fear and apathy.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Paradoxically,
redemption rests in the tenacity of meekness.
If you think meekness is weakness, try being meek for a week!

Rejecting imperial ways and means,
Jesus resisted with the radical nonviolence
of the humble of the earth.

Such meekness is not for the timid.
Well-rooted in compassion, with courageous resolve,
it refuses to submit to the subjugation of anyone.

Have you witnessed nature’s
magnificent meekness,
her enduing power to persist and resist?

Let us invoke that gentle strength
to stand up, stand strong, stand together for a worthier world,
gently and stubbornly, with the tenacity of trees by the waterside.


joe

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT

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