Like many others, I tend to use my Twitter and Facebook feed as a central news gathering system. I am connected to many news programs, articles, and posts that will reach me quicker than any evening news program. One of the first posts I read tonight after going out with my family said simply, “No Indictment.” The post had no punctuation and emoticons to tell me the feelings behind the statement, It was simply a statement. I am left only to read into his text my own understanding. His statement was simple, and it said everything I needed it to. I already knew the background, I had heard the perspectives of many men and women I trust. I had listened to the lamenting, I just needed the information, and it was given in two words.
Afterward I began looking for news articles, I cued up the speech given by Barak Obama, and I read Revered Peter Morales’s press release, but there was something else I needed to do, something I still need to do. I need to understand the emptiness I felt in those two words, “No Indictment.”
In this situation I thought of John Donn’s Poem, “No Man is an Island.”
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
I thought of this poem after reading a sarcastic comment from a man who easily wrote off the life of a human being. We are such a splintered society that we don’t see how much we need each other. We can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with us, and we know only what we see through our own eyes. I wonder often if they think when they throw out words like thug and criminal, that this is a child with a mother, who carried him for nine months, fed him every few hours, and raised him, and she will live the rest of her life without him.
It is easy to own the words of Cain and ask, am I my brother’s keeper?
In fact we are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for each other, for each life and death. We are responsible for women who are brutalized, young men and boys shot dead because they were the wrong color, the millions all over the world who will die from lack of food and sanitation.
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
This line is echoed in our Unitarian Universalist principles, stating that we are all part of a greater web and we will respect that web. Sadly it is so easy to judge the actions of people we can’t understand and it is so easy to write off lives of people our hands have never touched. It is easy to explain away grief instead of embracing it.
It is the feeling I have before I begin a long and hard day of work. I see the mountain before me, and feel the shame of my past weighing me down.
The emptiness is my shame hidden through years of privilege and immaturity. But now I know that I am my brother’s keeper, and I am tired of losing brothers.