I remember the
the feeling of
took one word
to begin and
years to finish.
Tethered by shame
and pain, I stayed
down until that
one breath—the sigh
that turned into
a whisper …
a small call to
an identity free
from the chains in
the depths of defeat—
and I listened and
I whispered more truths
before finally speaking
my own hope aloud.
And I felt myself
rise first to my knees;
then in prayerful
belief that life awaited,
I felt the pain
of muscles straining
to stand and felt the
flesh tearing as
the chains fell.
But this pain was
affirming my hopes,
and I rose to my feet
and pulled myself
from the pits of your hell,
and as the air reached
my wings, I knew
I had survived.
I rose. I flew.
I began to thrive.
–Chris Pepple ©2017
We protest in this nation because it makes us stronger. . . We voice our hurts. We point out injustices. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be a democracy with a document that calls for us to hear each other, to work together to be strong in our diversity. When women were left out of the conversation and the voting process, people protested (some peacefully and some violently). Now women can vote, own property, and hold political office. When prohibition was debated, people on both sides voiced their opinions strongly. Many businessmen broke the law and served alcohol even when it was prohibited. Eventually the law banning the sale of alcohol was overturned. We fought to end slavery and are still fighting to end serious injustices plaguing our nation such as unnecessary brutality, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, sexual predators pursuing children and the cover ups of all of these crimes to protect those with power, wealth or influence.
I’m a history geek, a listener, and a life-long learner. I want to know where we came from—honestly, not just a cute story that makes us look good. I want to understand people and their perspectives. I take public transportation and listen on subways and buses. When I am at the store, I listen to people on the aisles with me. I listen to people sitting near me at public events. I tune in to podcasts on subjects I had never thought about before and read editorials from opposing viewpoints. I want to hear people so I can understand things from their lives and their experiences. That’s the only way I can write from the perspective of different characters, and the only way I can be in conversation with others in my daily life—people in my neighborhood, my community, my city, my state, my nation, and my larger global family.
Here’s what I hear from many acquaintances right now: “I’m angry because I love this country and someone else won’t stand for the anthem of my homeland.” You are hurt because something meaningful to you is not being respected. You are angry because your values and traditions are not being upheld by others. It’s easy to feel personally threatened by these actions because your values are a part of who you are. You have the right to be proud of this nation, it’s flag, and your own religious beliefs that you tie into your patriotism. You have used your right to call protestors SOBs and other names. You have called for them to be fired, signed petitions to force them to stand, etc.
But your words have come full circle, so you must hear your own voices: We are a strong nation because we can express our opinions and hold our own beliefs. You can call someone an SOB who disagrees with you. Oh, but wait, can’t they express their beliefs? Isn’t that what our Constitution says? If you can ask people to stand, can’t someone else ask others to kneel?
I hear some protestors say they are kneeling because this country has not protected the lives of their brothers and sisters, their cousins, their friends, their mothers and fathers. A deaf man was shot at his house with neighbors yelling that he was deaf. A man was shot for complying with the law and acknowledging he had a legally concealed weapon. An autistic man was shot for not understanding the instructions. Men with their hands up were shot. Teens were shot by police as they legally drove away from a party to head home. They had no weapons and were not drunk or high or in a stolen car. They were just going home to respect the values their parents taught them about leaving a place if you felt uncomfortable with what was going on. An innocent man was killed when the police burst into the wrong home because of their own error. The protestors are hurting and protesting out of their hurts and over these injustices. It’s their legal right as an American to find a way to shed light on social issues that are keeping us from truly being a nation where all people are free.
You are using your constitutional right to voice your opinion that you want the anthem respected. They are peacefully using their constitutional right to ask you to hear them. It’s a peaceful protest—a cry to this nation to try to find a solution to this crisis.
It’s what we do because we are Americans. We protest. We speak out. We cry out to others to hear us. On taxation issues. On women’s rights. On prohibition. On repealing prohibition. On the rights of children to be educated. On gun rights. On gun limits. On the rights of all people to be treated with respect. About the rights of all people to be safe in this nation, to be equal under the law and to be treated justly.
This will not be our last issue to protest. We are a nation of fallible humans who will keep hurting others as we try to force others to live by our own traditions and political and religious beliefs. We will cause harm. Someone will find their voice and bravely stand up for those being harmed. Someone will find the courage to hear and join the chorus calling for love and justice to prevail.
It’s what we do. It’s called growth, and it make us stronger when we listen and join the conversation. You can be heard and still hear others. You don’t lose your rights when you give rights to other. You don’t lose your nation—you watch it come to life even stronger than before.
If you care about mission work, then you should care about making sure every person in this country has access to medical care. That’s a local mission opportunity–to bring healing.
If you care about ending domestic violence, you should care about making sure women (and men) and children who leave abusive relationships can have access to healthcare.
If you care about the dignity of our elders, you should care enough to make sure they have healthcare no matter what their life circumstances are.
If you believe life is sacred, then you should make sure that every infant born can then be cared for.
If you love your community, your state, your country, care enough to sure make people in it have the chance to be healthy so they can all live up to their fullest potential.
If you care about mental health, make it accessible.
If you care about persons who have disabilities, you should care enough to make sure they can live as healthy a life as possible.
If you care about ending drug addictions, make rehab accessible.
If you care about our teens, make sure they have medical coverage.
If you volunteer to teach someone to read, but don’t also fight to get them medical coverage, have you ministered to the whole person? If you donate to a shelter for temporary housing, but you don’t fight for healthcare so people can be healthy enough to change their circumstances, have you completed the mission at hand?
Healthcare needs are woven into many of our needs in this nation…fighting crime, ending poverty, ending abuse, improving mental health, aiding those who fight addictions, improving the lives of our children, enriching the lives of all people who have disabilities, respecting our elders and providing them with a better quality of life than many face….
Yes, tutor kids
Yes, donate to shelters
Yes, visit a nursing home
Yes, mentor a teen….
But don’t stop there…. fight for what will truly help change people’s lives…fight for healing, fight for health-mental, physical and emotional, fight for testing, fight for answers!
Providing healthcare can be done. It takes all of us to agree that this should be the goal. Then we can talk about how to achieve this goal successfully. It will take sacrifices on all sides. But we have the wisdom and the courage in this nation to find out how to make it work. We have to drop party labels and religious labels and personal labels and come to the conversation with the common goal because it is the right thing to do.
This was written for a dear friend who shared her thoughts with me…I heard you…I’m so sorry for the sorrow and struggles you are facing…Just know I heard you and I love you…I put some of your words into a poem:
The days pass by so quickly
Some without the joy
I thought I would always carry with me…
I try to recapture it
by hearing your voice call my name
as you did all through my childhood…
calling me for meals or church
or to remind me of a chore…
calling me to share news
or just to check in
You walk with me
even on days when we
are not together…
On days when I am closed
in an office with numbers
swirling around in a tornadic frenzy
until I gather them to their
cells on the spreadsheet before me…
You are with me when I worship…
Even when you are in a church miles away
or resting at home because
you can no longer make the trip…
You are with me on the drive to see you
in a home that will always fill my heart and soul
with thoughts of family and meals
and prayers and time that seemed to stop
for just a moment when we laughed…
I cannot slow time
I cannot heal
But I can love
I can remember
I can live out
all that I was taught
and hold on to
all that I cherish
and pass along
the stories to
all who will listen…
And I will remember…
And I will love…
–Chris Pepple ©2017
Someone asked me once why I liked to write in first person. It’s because the story belongs to the person who lived it. The truth about a life should first be told by the one whose truth it is. Then we may share the story to bring it into the global conversation—to weave it into our communal history. I, as the writer, merely empower the characters to tell their own truths.
From Without a Voice: