Of Torches and Candlelight Vigils


Candlelight Vigil

I am afraid and I am fearless. I am a humble wordsmith with ideas and a proud activist with a bullhorn. I am, and plan to always be, an American. I am also a pluralist, a social ecumenicist, if you will. This is my country. Believe what you will. Be whoever you want to be. Above all, be responsible for what you put into the world.

Today I am a flame, a mix of angry torches and solemn vigils.

What is in a flame, that in its most modest form, at the end of a narrow wick, we use it to express hope, sentiment and prayer, yet in a swirling column at the end of an oil soaked cloth, it threatens destruction? Fire is a language, an expression of joy and sorrow, and of hate and vile threats.

The saint is in the fire, and so is the Devil. A candle is lit so healing can find us. A torch is lit so we can find our way to that which hides in the dark places. Evil or strangeness is meant to flee when exposed to such abundant light, replaced by what the light brings. Yet when such a flame is brought and the hunted divergent do not cower like Frankenstein’s monster and secret away, one explanation might be that there is no evil there, only people.

Still they come, because they cannot let go of the tale of the bogeyman.

They come at us with their fear, we who believe that America is a living organism that adapts and changes with time, but never loses her founding principles that all are created equal, and endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We offer those rights to all people, including, and especially, to those whom we have shunned, segregated and lorded over.

Slavery is acknowledged to be our Original Sin as a nation, and it is. The nonsensical ideas which enable the notion of cultural superiority – Manifest Destiny; the right to kill, cow and isolate the people from whom we took this land; the need to entomb people in a static, homogeneous culture for their benefit (they should be grateful!) when it is really to benefit the enslavers – are merely different recipes for preparing and consuming someone else’s dignity.

That cannot happen anymore. Neither my nor my neighbors’ dignity are meals for your ego. If you try to consume us, or even subsume us, you will choke on our resistance.

I firmly believe we have it in ourselves as human beings to come together at the table, if we let go of cultural biases that separate us. Join us, and we will all feast. Extinguish your torches. Let unity snuff the flames. We will give you a votive to hold, and together we will pray to heal.

-PBG

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