Tuesday, June 9, 2020

On the Road: Kansas: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 25: Meade and The Situation

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Campground and playground. June 2020.

En route from Tucson to Missouri, I stopped in Meade, Kansas, for two nights.

On Wednesday evening, I visited the pleasant city park. There is a campground there, making it a welcome and comfortable retreat for RVers passing through.

There is a pretty playground, too, and it gave a nod to COVID.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground. June 2020.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground and COVID sign. June 2020.

Meade City Park in Meade, Kansas. Playground and COVID sign. June 2020.

I noticed a clutch of people with musical instruments across a parking lot from the playground. Ah! A small outdoor concert! Fabulous - a safe event outdoors with everyone able to choose their physical distance and still enjoy the music and (careful) conviviality of being with other humans IRL. If they chose to be careful, that is.

The musicians: Talented! Old-timey Christian songs, pleasantly nostalgic.

The music ended, and I learned that several clergy had pulled together to host this event for the purpose of offering solace and fellowship in this Difficult Time.

I reckoned, at first, that the clergy intended to talk about COVID, and maybe also some about the Black Lives Matter protests. 

COVID didn't come up at all. They talked about the protests. But they didn't use the word "protest."

Here are words I heard from the four ministers, all uttered with calm, reasonable, and pastoral tones of voice:
  • Race riots
  • Fear
  • Mobs
  • Riots
  • Fear
  • "The events"
  • "The situation"
  • Fear
  • Arson
  • Looting
  • Criminal acts

As I listened to the four members of the clergy from Meade, I felt confused. It was like they spoke in code. I understood the words. I understood the usual meanings of the words. But there was an overlay of meaning that kept me asking myself: "What is he really saying here?"

A minister of Meade, Kansas, at Meade City Park. June 2020.

There was much talk by each minister about how the protesters (my word) should turn to God and find peace and healing. There seemed to be an assumption that protesters (or, as the Meade ministers might call them: "rioters") are not people of faith. It seemed to be further implied that people of faith do not protest (my word). Maybe the thinking is: They protest (my word), therefore they have no faith. 

This talk of fear. Fear .... that Meade residents have? 

Fear of what? This wasn't explained. But maybe for Meade residents, it was understood.

A minister of Meade, Kansas, at Meade City Park. June 2020.

When a Black clergy woman strode to the stage, I had two thoughts:
  • "Oh! I am pleasantly surprised at Meade! A person of color is at this table!" (Because I have my own biases about small Kansas towns.)
  • "I want to hear what she has to say! Surely she'll bring some balance to this talk about riots, arson, looting and the lack of God in the protesters' (my word) lives." (Yes, I profiled her perspective based solely on her complexion.)
But no.

The minister, originally from Kenya, described a harrowing experience back home in which white folks shot at her husband while he and she were in their car, and threatened to cut off her hands! The minister related how she called to Jesus in her mind, and felt supreme confidence that Christ was not going to allow these men to harm her and her husband any further, and they did not! ..... And, she declared, it's this kind of faith and confidence that all of us should embrace.

For one, oh my gosh! What a horrific experience to have suffered! I cannot imagine the terror she must have felt.

But: George Lloyd called out for heavenly intervention, and the police murdered him anyway.

What is it the minister from Kenya - and the other Meade clergy - want African-Americans to do?

Be quiet, keep their heads down, pray?

Maybe the message is for African-Americans to do nothing. Maybe the message is that age-old one that colonizers and oppressors and their compliant missionaries disseminated to the oppressed: Accept your lot and get your reward in heaven.

I puzzled over this during the event, and afterward, and again when I arrived at my friend, Kate's, house in Missouri, who is a faithful follower of Christ, and who also protests in the streets, alone and with others. She is not a quiet Christian. Kate couldn't decipher the code either.

There was only one time when any of the ministers used the word justice.

One time.

Meanwhile, the ants on a tree went about their usual business.

Ants at Meade City Park. June 2020.

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