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Mercy Now

Over the past ten days, as yet another tsunami of gun violence and senseless death has swept the U.S., I’ve found myself growing more silent.

I’ve been so choked with anger and grief that words won’t come — except the names of the people gunned down in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, a litany of loss: Lorne Ahrens, Philando Castile, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Alton Sterling, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa.

As a teacher and writer, I’m not accustomed to being speechless. Even when I don’t know what to say, I often push through the silence and find words of some sort, driven by a moral obligation — or, more likely, an ego-need — to take a stand right now on the urgent issues of the day.

Apparently a lot of people feel the same compulsion. Since the July 5 shooting of Alton Sterling, the internet has hosted a din of voices telling us what to think and do about these tragedies. There’s nothing new in that, of course — and I’m grateful for the wise and prophetic voices occasionally found online.

But this time around, getting snared in the internet frenzy has only pulled me deeper into soul-stifling anger and grief. If I want to find words and actions that might be life-giving and serve the common good, I need to reclaim my true self and recover my true voice. So I’ve been embracing the silence that has descended upon me — experiencing it at moments as a kind of solidarity with those whose voices have been silenced forever.

In the midst of my daily work, I’ve also spent time walking in the woods, reading poetry, and listening to music. One song in particular, Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” has been especially healing for me. I listen to it several times a day for the strange solace that catharsis can bring, a release without answers. I share it here in the hope that others will find it helpful, too.

May “mercy now” be the portion of all who feel lost in the madness of racial injustice and gun violence — especially those who grieve the death of people they loved.

May more and more of us find the courage to walk together toward Dr. King’s vision of The Beloved Community — a world marked by the mercy that comes not only in release, but in the blessings of justice and peace.

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor
Fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over
It won’t be long and he won’t be around
I love my father, and he could use some mercy now

My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom
He’s shackled to his fears and doubts
The pain that he lives in is
Almost more than living will allow
I love my bother, and he could use some mercy now

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit
That’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful
Who follow them down
I love my church and country
And they could use some mercy now

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now

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