Updated: Dec 18, 2019
They had a holy cause.
The kids were there to protect the most vulnerable population they could imagine. They were there to protect the unborn, to affirm unborn humans’ rights to personhood. They wore caps expressing fealty to the temporal ambitions of a roguish man some believe to be anointed by divine authority to advance their holy cause. They had been sent, with chaperones, by their school and their diocese. They were waiting for a bus to take them home.
They had a hoody cause.
The kids were there to assert their own personhood: their right to be noticed but not shot down in the streets. They did it their own raucous way without chaperones or sponsorship, relying on their wit, their cool, their ability to puncture the presumption and the composure of any who would insult them - or ignore them. They could assert themselves, name themselves, take care of themselves. Their way.
Not totally dependent, but not fully developed in terms of education, experience, or myelination.
How do they ever learn if not given some freedom to make mistakes?
But apparently unsupervised adolescent boys engaging in disturbing displays (exchanging taunts, testing nerve, asserting dominance) are often unsettling to others including dogs, small children, girls, other adolescent boys, and most adults.
They had a human cause.
They were there because this was once their land. Citizenship was imposed on them in 1924; full voting rights had not been recognized for some of them until 1957. They were representing those struggling against isolation and despair, fighting to forge an identity that afforded hope and dignity in the land of their conquerors. One of them, a veteran of one of his savage conqueror’s many savage wars, noticed the two boyish tribes in their incipient fracas.
People prattle about understanding. But nobody understands.
The old man stepped in. He stepped in with his own best version of sternness, and of gentleness. He wanted to distract them. He wanted to charm them. He wanted them to understand.
A picture was taken.
A picture was taken, the smirking features of one boy eerily reminiscent of the smirking features of older boys in another photo taken years ago as they menaced other young men protesting silently by trying to order coffee at a lunch counter. Woolworths.
A picture was taken while our government is shut down and a struggle for power is escalating in ways that threaten to careen out of control.
A picture was taken of a smirk.
Many saw the smirk as a chilling symbol of the menace from those ever willing to suspend law, order, and every respect for human decency in their determination to sustain traditional forms of injustice and domination.
But others saw something different.
They had video.
They had a video which they thought should discredit those who fight for personhood and human dignity. “Ah Ha!” they crowed. “See, you have no cause! You have no rights! You are fools! What a bunch of noise you make over nothing! Pictures, you know, can be deceiving!”
Anything can be deceiving. Everything can be deceiving.
We have a president* who has built a career on deception, and who has called forth a dangerous political following based on deception. But not only on deception. We have a president* who has built up himself and his followers based on hatreds, fears, bullying, disparagement, and the nullification of others. The smirking boy proudly wore the obscene president’s* cap.
We have the picture.
The picture doesn’t really tell the whole story. What single picture could?
The picture doesn’t really tell the whole story of how churches and congregations (some very old, some exquisitely venerable) have cast their lot with their new Cyrus. (Their new Cyrus is a colossal buffoon of unmeasured criminality, treachery, and menace.)
The picture doesn’t really tell the whole story of how entire churches with all their ancient and preternatural symbolism have invested their authority in a president* who symbolizes the power of the state to tear infants from their mothers’ breast and build triumphal walls to exclude the despised.
The picture doesn’t really tell the whole story of how legions of churches marching behind a colossal Cyrus could threaten the rights, personhood, and dignity of every soul walking wearily through this broken world.
But some people want personhood for the unborn. Others want their wall.
They have their churches. They have their Cyrus.
We have the picture.