Today, the news agencies are reporting that the Tsarnaev brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia, were responsible for the horrific act of violence last week at the Boston Marathon. For reasons yet unknown, the brothers decided to bomb and kill, and during the chase, kill again.
And my first thought was, “Oh. thank goodness it wasn’t a redneck.” At least it wasn’t one of us — one of my kind. It was a group to which I do not belong — with beliefs that I do not share.
I am not much of a redneck. People who grew up with me would not have characterized me that way — I didn’t chew tobacco, I didn’t wear the right clothes, or go to the right concerts. My accent was not a typical South Carolina accent. I was probably far closer to a pencil-necked geek than a true redneck.
But since moving away from South Carolina, I have enjoyed calling myself a redneck, because it speaks to a certain set of values that I share — a love of God, a love of country, a sense of belonging within a family structure. Identifying myself this way provides me with a sense of “us”-ness that I otherwise lack. I love calling myself a redneck.
But as soon as the thought, “Thank goodness,” crossed my mind, I felt a sense of shame. Because although I was relieved that it was not one of “us,” someone else suddenly felt bad because it was. One of us.
I am now convinced that this is at the heart of an important issue. We live in fear that “our group” will be embarrassed by the actions of a few nuts in our midst. The unstable ones who hear voices that tell them to kill, or whose hate has blinded them to the fact that those we call “them” are also one of “us”.
When do I start? When do I begin to feel shame that it was one of us that did this, rather than relief?
There was a prayer uttered by a religious leader in the first century, who said, “God, I thank you that I am not like THAT one.” The story vilified him, saying that he was not doing the whole prayer thing right. We have to take that to heart.
We have to start to really consider ourselves humans first: and not redneck, tea partyer, liberal or conservative. Or Christian, Muslim, Bostonian, New Orleanian, South Carolinian, American, Canadian, European, African, Chinese.
I will try and let it be today. Today I am one of you. Whoever you are. Whatever group you belong to, you are part of my group. My people. And we are sad about this violence. Together.