I waited until the last moment to write this column on Dec. 21, 2012. It was not because I thought the world was coming to an end, but because I was thinking about the kind of world we have to build on this planet before we destroy ourselves.
After the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., we are reminded that nothing is sacred and nowhere is really safe. We are finally going to get some changes in who possesses military weapons and large magazines, but we also must ask ourselves why such a powerful gun culture exists in this nation.
The need to protect yourself is based on the belief that some group or individual will harm you if you were not armed. But those who have that fear have never tested that theory because they have never been unarmed. So the fear is not based in truth but in the memory banks of a people who tell each over and over again that it is us-against-them. “Them” is not clearly defined and can shift with the political and economic winds.
We find ourselves peeking out of our windows, and regardless of the clarity of the weather, we see a fog of fear and anger seeping down every street and alleyway and finding its way into every crack and crevice of this nation. Who we are now as a nation is not who we were, and our intent should be to make sure that what we become is far superior to what we are today.
Change is coming
We are a nation in transition, and we are still wrestling with the peculiar ups-and-downs of our particular capitalist system. It is a system unlike any other in the world that is founded on and is still heavily dependent on racial and religious groups building communities or towns for themselves. People fleeing oppression and fleeing to America to build a new life has been the fuel that has created almost everything we have, starting on the East Coast and eventually ocean to ocean.
We have ended the Olmec/Mayan long count and began another, and I believe change is in the air. For all of the doom and gloom that can be found, there are brighter rays of hope, though sometimes barely seen over our small hills of personal despair.
Those of us out here have seen the good and bad of communities in the South, Midwest and East Coast. We should learn from cities 200 to 300 years older than Seattle because each has a valuable lesson to teach about the success or failure of their attempts at making this grand American experiment work.
We should represent the final product in that grand experiment called America and use the lessons of their past to create something unique out here.
What would a school look like that had no fear of gun violence and no need to discuss armed teachers or armed guards? Is it possible to re-create communities where people never locked their doors and police stations were the only building with bars on the windows? Or do we allow those hoarding weapons and bullets to set the tone for America in 2013?
Be fearful of fear
I see the fear mongers, and I know how easy it is to make your fear a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know this is rhetorical, and maybe the answer is possible only in the deepest recesses of my own mind, but is it possible to build a wall of love around a community, and those of you inside jointly decide to build a place based on love rather than fear?
We see the power in fear and its opposite, and the only thing that defeats it is love. We build what we love rather than barricade ourselves in because of our fears. Both take the same amount of work, sweat and nails, but one is temporary and other is permanent.
Every day after Dec. 21, 2012, we should work toward building a new heaven right here on earth, and its unfortunate that we have made the greatest opportunity known to man a time of impending doom. We are just seeing the darkest time before the light and the rebirth of who we are supposed to be.
CHARLIE JAMES has been an African-American-community activist for more than 35 years. He is co-founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Institute (mlkci.org). To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.