On Knees for Mercy, Not Necks for Murder
The first hymn I have sung in over a year was “We Shall Overcome” at an outdoor gathering in front of an African Episcopal Methodist congregation in Schenectady, New York.
The planners of the vigil had decided we would gather during the deliberation in the George Floyd murder trial—with no idea what that outcome might be.
As it happened, we had gathered only moments after the guilty verdicts were announced. Still, I would not call our time together totally jubilant. There were tears and prayers. Tears and prayers.
But why? Why the need to weep?
Why weep when it was so obvious—so very obvious--that cold-blooded murder occurred outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis with the same weapon, a knee, that got Colin Kaepernick kicked out when he used it during the national anthem?
After all, mostly a knee is not a weapon. It’s a modest bodily member, a symbol of humility.
Just the knee. That body part we may or may not use for prayer if that is our inclination.
Just the knee—the part that the truly (perhaps sappy?) romantics feel must signal a request for marriage.
Just the knee. That body part that may support a midwife as she helps a laboring woman give birth, poised to catch a new generation of being.
Just the knee. Those knees upon which we may have knelt trying to fasten our aging parents’ or demented partner’s shoes when they can no longer remember how to tie the knots learned in kindergarten. And these are the same knees on which we have knelt—or someday may kneel on--to tie our children’s pointe shoes, shin guards, prosthetics or skates.
Because mostly, a knee is not a weapon.
Hubris—or arrogance, privilege or pride, take your pick—is a different kettle of fish, as my mother used to say. So she would not have seen any wisdom in this kettle of fish:
Let me kneel on your neck longer than I would kneel to pray.
Let me kneel on your neck longer than it would take my girlfriend to decide to marry me.
Let me kneel on your neck longer than if you sang the national anthem more than four times—if you had the breath in you needed for singing. (But, of course, you would need to sing the national anthem more than four times before I would take my knee out of your carotid artery, which is to say, your neck.)
Personally, I am breathless at that thought.
This doesn’t mean I can’t breathe because there is a white cop atop me who doesn’t trust the cuffs I’m shackled in.
All it means is this: is this our country?
I went to the African Methodist Episcopal church in my neighborhood for the prayer service on Tuesday because there was nothing else to do that made any other kind of sense. We had planned to gather no matter what the verdict would be. Those gathered, and me among them, were happy about the verdict. I was punch-drunk happy, crazy-happy.
But crazy-happy is an oasis, just an oasis. As a cis-gender white woman, my views are limited by my experience of being just that. My views may be short in scope--though my will and guarded hope is sturdy.
It comes down to this little riddle: Is hope worth the struggle? Is the struggle worth the hope?
How the hell would I know? But as long as I am here, I will work that riddle. Work it with me, if you wish.
Meanwhile, I sang outside today. Maybe we are meant to sing outside. Voices carry.