Dear President Trump,
I told you yesterday that Laura and I took the dogs on a walking tour of the University campus to see the heron rookery. We tagged on visiting a couple of the newer buildings on campus that Laura wanted to show me with the idea that I could go in and check out the art while she hung with the dogs outside. Unfortunately that plan had to be scrapped because the buildings of interest were locked down tight and her campus access card isn’t programmed to let her into those places (which means that many a computer science and engineering faculty person will no doubt be disappointed not to be able to gain access to the art-free ancient brutalist psychology department building).
Anyway, in our travels we saw three pieces of public art we’d never noticed before, all of which are quite cool, but none of which are the focus here. Rather, my focus is the tattered remnants of a poster I saw in a strange dark, almost alley-way, pasted rather high up on the wall in an awkward spot. More of the letters are missing than are there, but it either once said:
I was convinced when I first saw it that it said “promote,” but this morning when I studied the picture I took of it I really didn’t see an “M” in the middle of the first word or an “E” at the end so I’m pretty sure the latter take is correct. Why does this matter? Well, because if it were “promote” and not “protect” it would be safe(ish) to assume that whoever defaced it was probably not interested in promoting marginalized voices and may even want them silenced. On the other hand, if it’s “protect” and not “promote” then it could either have been a silencing sort of person or someone from a marginalized group who took exception to the idea of their voice being protected by someone else since that smacks of “There, there, dear – go ahead and say what you want, I’ll let you” paternalism.
All this ties in with yesterday morning’s sermon by a visiting preacher, Rev. Dr. Angela Parker, the title of which was “Sandra Bland at the Cross.” I can’t possibly do Dr. Parker’s sermon justice – her message and her delivery were both incredible (definitely worth checking out the audio of it on the Seattle Plymouth UCC website). In what felt like a too-short 20-minutes she drew out profound parallels between the experiences of the women who wanted to tend to Jesus’s dead body on the cross, but couldn’t because of their societal/cultural positions and their wariness of the soldiers milling around, and Sandra Bland’s fatal encounter with the Texas Ranger, which we now know from seeing Bland’s video was nothing like what the Ranger described.
Parker told us that if we took nothing else from her sermon, she wanted us to remember that the women, those mourning Jesus and Bland, were without power, without privilege, and were close to death – in short, they were perilously vulnerable. Parker also brought forward how all of these women were seers, witnesses to what was real and desperately needed attention even as their voices were marginalized and they were neither promoted nor protected.
May we each have just as much power and privilege as we need to be safe and secure.
May we all be willing to promote voices that historically have been pushed to the margins.
May we stop forcing people to live with the fear that violent death is around the next corner.
May we make peace with the seers by listening patiently to what they have to report.