“Of the increase of His government of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.” Isaiah 9:7
On December 21, 2015 at 4:46am, a 57 year old woman was forcibly removed by a Blountstown police officer from the Calhoun Liberty Hospital after the emergency room physicians declared she was stable but unwilling to leave the premises. She was arrested for Disorderly Conduct and Trespassing.
The early reports given by the Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory state that the “dash-cam footage from the officer’s car does not show the incident but does pick up the audio.” Also, Ruth Attaway, the administrator and CEO of the hospital told The Tallahassee Democrat three days after the event occurred that “staff did everything they could to save Dawson.” Adding greater ambiguity, Chief Mallory stated “after Dawson collapsed her handcuffs were removed and the arresting officer quickly signaled for medical help.”
Now the police car’s dash-cam is released and the truth is once again much different than the picture presented by those accused of negligence and wrongful death. The recorded version reveals that an in-humane 18mins passed as Ms. Dawson sat unresponsive on the cold pavement that early morning. The officer in question can be heard as un-sympathetic towards her as any Gestapo officer would’ve been towards a Jewish WWII prisoner being carted off to a concentration camp. Barbara Dawson was readmitted into the same hospital only feet from where she collapsed…she died two hours later
Last spring, a dear high-school friend lost her mother in the Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, Fl. As I listened to her weep through her anger, she described the incredulous attention her mother received by the nursing staff and doctors who refused to even respond to the cacophony of pleads from family members and herself. At one point, she and her family were threatened by hospital security to be forcibly removed due to their open protests for their mother’s welfare. I tried to negotiate in my mind how this just couldn’t happen. Her accusations were too irrational and so inconsistent with what I’ve come to experience in hospitals I’ve visited while living in New Jersey. It was easier to accept a preempted version. One which supported a version where her observations where filtered through her grief and the trauma of her mother’s unfortunate death. Rather than the harsh cold and piercing truth that these people saw my friends mother as a worthless investment of their time or energy.
Could it be because she was uninsured? She wasn’t. She had nominal health insurance. Could it be because she was irate? She wasn’t. She was rational, responsive and communicative. What could it have been? Well, there is her ethnicity. She was black, elderly and a woman. Could those three criteria been the trifecta to discredit and diminish her in the eyes of the medical staff? Only eight months ago I would not have thought so. Oh how one’s perspective can be corrected in such a short time.
Although these stories could easily fall into the bin that overflows with socially ill-fated examples such as health-care for the poor, violent crime, the devaluing of the marginalized or the base human passions that greed and bigotry promote, I suggest there is a much more sinister narrative we should be alerted to. I suggest the root of this issue is the consciousness of the Christian community of America.
As I take notice of this particular tragedy I want to clarify that it is not my goal to respond out of either a form of spiritualized scolding or passive aggressive threats, but rather a deeply public expression that our communal consciousness has been and is in its death throws. My goal is to provoke an anguish real enough to enable you – the Christian – to cast off your yokes of denial and passive resistant attitudes towards the impending demise of a national consciousness we have become ardent participants in.
Much like Barbara Dawson, who pleaded for her life until she became unresponsive to attempts to revive her, we too are destined to become. Walter Brueggemann describes our condition as, “the collapse of our self-madeness, the barriers and pecking orders that secure us at each other’s expense, and the fearful practice of eating off the table of a hungry brother or sister.” In so doing we are indeed deaf and mute to the woes of our society. Making hollow demonstrations that only serve to incite higher salaries and network ratings.
It is much more than merely ignoring the plight of the oppressed. We suffer under the delusion that the way we travel is the best and only way. That to accept any other form of national narrative would be tantamount to treason of our nation’s aspirations and founding father’s dreams of a “more perfect union”. In truth, the very cry of Barbara Dawson is an affront to our consciousness because it forces us to glance away from our stick-figure lives to consider – even for a moment – that something is amiss. I argue that where there is anguish there is an alternative consciousness seething to break through the numbness, filled with hope to be felt and recognized as a viable option for life.
I am more and more compelled to feel anguish rather than anger anymore. Like Jesus Christ, I have come to accept and understood that every “oppressed person must have an oppressor”. It is also clear to me as an imperative that those who play that role so dutifully, must understand the end that is soon to come resulting from their unconsciousness to the sound of pleading mothers, motionless children and despairing parents. What is more significant to me is that this ending is already present. It became present on a starry filled night more than 2,000 yrs. ago. A new King was moving in to invert a kingdom which promoted itself by securely enacting mind altering grief and despair. That king’s name was Herod the Great, and he would decimate his family, murder countless children of Bethlehem between one day and four years of age. All in hopes of preventing, denying and resisting the incoming of a new King and the hope of a different destiny. Later, his son, Herod Antipas would murder John the Baptist for declaring the arrival of a new King. This new King’s name is Jesus of Nazareth. “And His Kingdom shall have no end.”
I declare to you that the oppressor is already vanquished and his head has been bruised, therefore we must resist the implications that come with hopelessness and despair. We must be confronted with the truth that the ancillary stories being touted and bantered about are mere distractions from the true issue; that God’s Kingdom is presently here and evoking death echo’s within the dying consciousness of a kingdom constructed to promote self-sufficiency, avarice, war, lusts and a numbness toward all-things Christ-like (i.e. forgiveness, social freedom, crossing barriers to show mercy, physical healing and spiritual exorcisms, the liberation and inclusion of women and children as recipients of the common good, political-economic governance, and ultimately the teachings against preferential election, which denied some while giving access to a certain few to have a robust relationship with God). (Brueggemann, 2001)
Our hope is not born out of Herod’s intimidation or plots to kill us; for we have already died. And with our deaths we have released the fear of death and its power to allure us into tranquil states of morbidity. The beauty is– we can now see the world through the words and songs which deny Herod’s false kingdom. We can sing and promote a welfare of the ‘other’ rather than ourselves. We can learn the chorus to songs filled with anguish which we accept as points of access to a new hope. For only through the anguish of our deaths to Herod’s kingdom will we be raptured into the hope that comes in the person of Jesus Christ and all that His true kingdom offers us. Hope from anguish is our cry. A hope that will never disappoint us but surely deliver us — presently and eternally.
God’s peace and good journey!
ΑΩ A. David Griffin, M.Div.