Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Standing up for ourselves

In just a few rash, stupid, uncontrolled moments, he threw away his life and that of another person. He thought he was “getting even” or “standing up for himself” or “claiming his rights,” but he was really giving them all away, giving away his whole life. He’ll now spend the majority of his life following the orders of prison wardens. He’ll wear what they tell him to wear; he’ll eat what they give him to eat, when they give it to him. He’ll sleep, bathe, exercise, and work when, where, and how the prison tells him to. All because he felt the need to stand up for himself…with a gun… by shooting two other people. One of whom died.

Loyer Braden got in a fight and was spat on.* He was mad; who wouldn’t be? And so he found the guy later and had another fight. Clearly he didn’t feel he was making adequate headway in winning this argument. So he went and got a gun, and decided to fire “into the air to scare” the people or person he was mad at. Except, one guy was shot in the ankle and one young woman was shot in the stomach, twice. She died yesterday. And now Braden won’t just be charged with attempted murder, but with actual murder, or manslaughter, or whatever the lawyers come up with. It’ll be something that sends him to prison for a long time, where all his freedom is gone, and all he’s left with is the thought of this one irrational act.

I’ll pray for Shalita tonight, the young woman who died. And for Loyer who shot her. And for Nathaniel, the young man shot in the ankle. And for us – that we will learn from Loyer’s terrible mistake. That we won’t be so rash. That we’ll stop and think before resorting to violence to “stand up for ourselves.” That we will somehow learn to have a long view of the arguments that so disrupt our days; that we’ll learn to let go of them, so that they don’t become the controlling factor in our lives, as this argument has now become in these three people’s lives, and the lives of their families.

*The News-Journal article describing the incident.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lamenting Violence

For the second Monday evening in a row, those of us gathered in the chapel for Evening Prayer today will pray for a student that has been shot and the campus community shaken by this violence. I can only begin to imagine the grief of Taylor Bradford's family in Memphis tonight.

These aren't just news stories to me, and not only because I work on a college campus. I know both these campuses. I lived in Delaware and Memphis and I've been on both campuses. I have very dear friends who work at Memphis State and I know how hurt they are that their campus has experienced such violence. I know it without even talking to them because we are part of a religious community of prayer. I know that they are also praying for Bradford's family and for peace in their community.

I want to shake my head and ask how such violence could happen. But the truth is I'm not that surprised anymore. As a campus chaplain I feel some obligation to help our students learn tools other than violence. But it seems such a futile effort when everywhere around us we are surrounded by violence. Why should college campuses be any different?

A colleague reported physical abuse of her child to authorities over the weekend. The death toll in Iraq continues to rise each day. Even as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter meet in the Sudan to try to find a way to peace. Tonight I will pray that they will find a way, and that all the rest of us will learn from their example.

May Taylor rest in peace and rise in glory.