There was really only one thing to say: “What the heeeeeeyy?”
I said it softly so as not to alarm the otherwise oblivious babe in my arms. But it appeared that hell itself was indeed bubbling over, which made my speech more of a descriptor than an expletive. A swarm of noise and flailing limbs was bowling eastward and towards us. One batch of the rabble was bolting out of the center, another batch running straight into it, and about a thousand people stood dead still, watching with both fear and curiosity. It took about twenty tentative seconds to figure out that a handful of people were rabidly beating a handful of others. Fists were meeting faces with alarming frequency. Crowd “control” (which was kind of a misnomer at this point) rushed onto the scene - men with guns and sticks, beating the beaters. I’m sure there were two sides to the battle, though it was turning into every man for himself. With arms and sticks and feet still flying every which way, an unconscious man was being drug to the side, and reality sunk in. We are bearing witness to death here. The fun and laughter captured in the morning’s selfie quickly dissipated as I asked myself three questions:
What’s the quickest way out without getting trampled?
What kind of parents take their toddler to cultural events where people get beat to death?
Is she growing up learning to do the same?
The mob had been formed by a cohort of disgruntles looking to oust the Chief from his throne and place the woman pictured below, a wanna-be-Chiefteness, upon it. This woman felt so strongly that she deserved to be the one in power, and she convinced her clan to follow her into a fight to the death for it. The man drug out of the rabid mob – I don’t even know which side he was on – but he was thought to be dead and hauled away. (Word was sent out to the villages later that he was only mostly dead, which we all know from Princess Bride means that he was partly alive. Maybe Miracle Max is running the coroners office again? Either way, I don’t expect we’ll see this guy around these parts any more.)
Specifics aside, a death brawl broke out because someone wanted something and was afraid she wasn’t going to get it. I watch different versions of this scenario play out on our playground every single day. Little kids punch each other square in the face over petty offenses and I know they are learning this anger-management technique from the adults in their life. I know that culturally, it is believed here that one’s gain is always another’s loss and losses – loss of a toy, loss of a customer, loss of a title – are always considered devastating and always warrant a fight. Sometime the fight it with fists, sometimes with witchcraft. This is the social order and what keeps people in bondage to their own fear. After the rioters dispersed there at the Chief's palace, the program carried on as if nothing had happened. It almost seemed "normal," and that's what makes me worry.
Again I question on behalf of My child, the one growing up in the middle of this, how can she not be learning this too???
|the inauguration morning selfie. I love her so much.|
In the conversations I have in my head, at night when we are laying in bed and I am watching Bronwyn breathe soft and steady as she lay peaceful and protected between myself and her father, I rehearse the monologue in which I unpack the gospel with respect to all this culture of acceptable beating and even death. How do you say it in kid language?
Everyone is searching for significance. Some are searching for it in power, others in wealth, others in being top-kid at the playground. They fear that if they don’t get what they want, that it means they are nothing. It hurts their hearts so badly, leaves them aching, and they respond to that hurt by hurting others. In desperation, they wound strangers, even friends and family, to get what they feel they are missing. They are willing to even let another person die to make them feel ok. But Jesus fought the fight to end all fighting, he died the death to end all murders. Because He was the most important One of all, and he took the beating so that we wouldn’t have to. He called us special, secure, worthy and made us ALIVE through his DEATH. Amazing, right? He gave us all His specialness so we would never have to fight for our own.
Does that even come close? Is it enough to keep her fists tame and her heart secure? Does it shed light on the Chief’s inauguration day and help her make sense of the flashes of anger we see every day? In this do I hope, and for this do I pray.
In some sense, I think it might be easier to explain the gospel in this context than in one that is perhaps more subtle. Of course public family feuding accompanied by riotous man-beating is a pretty sharp depiction of depravity… but it is really no more sinful than sending hateful words through an e-mail, posting a snarky comment on twitter, or giving the silent treatment in lieu of forgiveness. Yes, the guy who was knocked senseless and now has no teeth, yes, he needs Jesus. The lady who wanted to badly to be Cheifteness that she started a riot? She needs Jesus too. And don’t we all?
And. Don’t. We. All?
If Bronwyn understands this, she will be saddened, but never surprised by the sin of another, or her own. While we don’t want her to be trampled in a mob at a Chief’s induction ceremony – or any other time – we are strangely ok (perhaps even a bit thankful?) with her encountering the hurts of the world at a young age, because it means that, for her, the cross will stand that much taller. And there’s nothing I want more for her.