My school, Fuller is about one hour drive away from San Bernardino, where 14 people were massacred recently. Many students live near or within this city. I used to catch the San Bernardino train line to school with hundreds of other commuters (proving there is public transport in Los Angeles, even if it doesn’t come when or where you want it).
Los Angeles is no stranger to violence. From the famous race riots, faculty member Miroslav Volf penned the theological classic Exclusion and Embrace, also common class text. And still today in parts of the city the word “gang” is not a lyric of a rap song. It defines the suburb.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, my friend Delonte wrote this piece for the Huffington post.
And you should click the link and read it. For two reasons. Firstly, because you’d click thousands of links a day so why not reward a student for his effort, and secondly because it’s good.
Delonte is literally one of the voices of our world’s future. Not in the sense that he will be celebrated as the glitterati “Kimye”, the quintessential celebrity export of Los Angeles. No. Delonte has been recently working with police on gun violence downtown. He lives his message, not just in photos for the press, but in the moments after the celebrities disappear and he’s singing with five lonely people crowded around a piano in a room that strangely resembles a bank vault. A room I’ve been in because Delonte hosted four of our Aboriginal Australian Christian leaders on tour in Los Angeles in December of 2013.
Normally I’m conscious of the many US/Australian differences. But here I can’t help thinking how many similarities there are between the two nations in regards to the issue he raises.
A narrative of ‘personal responsibility’ in the Australian context manifests differently. But it’s allowed us to marginalize our black voices that have within them the very seeds for a better Australia.
Australian Christian friends of mine tell me that they’d like the “freebies” our government gives the Indigenous community. But then then I go and sit with Aboriginal pastors providing pastoral care to the prisons and the hospitals, and I just can’t find the money. I can find erratic funding programs that do little but act as incentives for Aboriginal people to urbanize, and leave behind their language, and culture. I find ways we often disrespect the agency of their elders, ignoring good leaders and promoting ones who are less committed to the community. I see ways we refuse and reject their hard earned wisdoms instead engaging “gesture politics” as Megan Davis, Law Professor chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues calls it. But I can’t find the wanton generosity these Christians claim our state has. I can’t find many open ears or willing hearts on our end, at all.
After four years, I’ve had to decide that I will tell the truth. I can see a whinging group of privileged, white people struggling to repay half-a-million dollar mortgages, and spinning tales of the greener grass. And, according to Delonte’s thesis, that individualism, that logic which claims that each of the advantages we have is earned by us, that, my friends, is killing us.
He says that it contributes – in fact causes – the philosophy of the “lone wolf”. Maybe we can contextualize it here to Australia, and call it the issue of “the feral cat”.
Because this type of selfish disregard for others is killing our ingenuity, our inventiveness to solve problems. It leaves us with old, outdated ideas. It is therefore slowly killing the vibrancy of the culture we create together, and reducing us to consumers. It leaves us unable to distinguish what is actually good versus what looks good. We become suckers for marketing. And this makes us a weak target for terrorism, as we defend our ‘things’ against those we deem outsiders.
So maybe Australia has solved some things with gun legislation, but this article helps proves that we still have an issue of the heart. And one we still need to solve. Urgently.