Still not sure what to say or feel. Anger? Dismay? Numb? Nothing? Just like every other president? When will it stop? Will there ever be peace? Will there ever be hope for the people right here? I don’t know. Here is what I’ve done.
Dear President Obama,
I will be the first one to say that I don’t know much about Syria, probably as much as the many people who are sharing their opinions with you as well. I only see what I read on the Internet and that’s not good. But I don’t have time to read much because I have work to do and so do you.
Here is what I do know. I have stood by you since the day you asked for my vote. You had the voice of hope, change and opportunity that could make a difference for those in need. You knew exactly what you were talking about because you saw it first hand as a senator from Chicago. You were a civil rights attorney. You knew what your voice of hope meant for the people in Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Richmond and other cities where there are gangs and mass killings; where hundreds of thousands of people have already died due to gang violence, weapons, slavery and chemical weapons. You stood with them and said, “Enough is enough. We can’t turn a blind eye any more.”
What happened? You have taken those words and are now using the very resources at your disposal to direct your action towards another country. Instead of being worried about the killings, shootings, warfare and chemical weapons in your country and using “your” military, you have promised billions of dollars and military action to Syria. Where is your blind eye now? What do you tell the people still trapped in their lives, right here in the United States? What do you tell them? What will you tell these people?
A 16-year-old kid finds acceptance from the brotherhood (aka, gang) and they give him a test – how can he handle the “green candy”. Here he is sitting in the trauma bed of the emergency room. In-between the intense pain, he tells me he has no idea why he jumped in front of a moving car. He thought it was still. It took time and trust for him to finally tell me what he was on, “some green pill they gave me.” Who?” I asked. “I don’t know. My buddies.” Some buddies. Mr. President, he could have been you.
Tell me what you will tell the 17-year-old whose initiation into the gang was to kill someone. This is his way to prove his manly hood and his loyalty to his brothers. He passed the test by killing the young man in another gang who stepped into the wrong part of town. He’s earned his way into the gang. The “man” has been accepted. Doesn’t matter though, because he’s in jail. No telling what gangs he will meet, initiation he will have to answer or beatings he will have to take because all he wanted to do was be accepted. There was no other way. He sits in jail now, wondering if the acceptance can outweigh the guilt of killing another man. He is numb to himself, to the prison community and to humanity. Mr. President, he could have been your son, either one of these boys.
Then there’s the 20 something girl who hangs out on the street at night. She has to make money some how to put food on the table, feed her child, and pay for community college. Yes, she is going to school but she also has to answer to the guy who is holding her body hostage and getting her these nightly “gigs”. She tried to get out before, but he found out where she was and she paid the price in more ways than her street work, all because she tried to get help. Mr. President, she could have been your daughter.
Every night, these city hospitals meet boys, girls, men and women who are fighting a never-ending war with weapons of mass destruction, slavery, chemical warfare, human trafficking and poverty as the space between the rich and the poor gets wider and longer. Are there military bombs? Nuclear weapons? Stealth fighters? No. They are guns, drugs, and power. Guns are in their hands and in the hands of people who should never have been introduced to them to begin with. Families’ lives are forever changed because of the WMDs in their homes and on their turf.
What do I say to the father whose face is frozen in a pain that I don’t understand? He is sitting with me until I get word that his little boy is out of surgery. The doctors had to remove the bullet fragments from his small abdomen. The bullet left its mark through various places of his ever-growing body. This is the same gun daddy used to protect his family from the thugs in the ‘hood. I begged the detective to wait before they arrested him, so I can at least give him some hope that his mistake didn’t cost another life in his family. Mr. President, that little boy could have been your grandchild.
Mr. President, there are kids, young boys, girls, spread out all over the United States who are held hostage because of weapons, chemicals, slavery, and poverty. They can’t get out from all the fighting, civil war, attacks and warfare. Children are dying. Their parents are dying. Some don’t know when their next meal will come. They don’t know if they will have a home tomorrow, or a job, or a family. Many hear gunshots in their neighborhoods and the sounds melt into being a part of their daily lives. Bullet holes decorate the school walls and remind them of life in their backyards. Rats, waste, and disease run rapid through the streets. I can’t tell you who’s been infected because they don’t even know. Because they can’t go to the doctor, what they are feeling is normal for them. They don’t know anything else. It’s a part of their makeup. And even if they did know, it doesn’t matter. Life has to go on in order to survive because nobody else will get them out. If they are lucky, they will wake up tomorrow.
Mr. President, I am not talking about Syria. I am talking about Detroit. I am talking about Richmond. I am talking about Oakland, Flint, Greenville, Baltimore, and your hometown of Chicago. Every one of these cities is infested with gangs, slavery, drugs, and weapons of mass destruction. The chemical weapons you fear in Syria are in these towns. They come in pocket size baggies, needles, green pills, crushed white powder and broken up bottles. Those chemicals aren’t in the sky; they are in the pockets of children, women and men who are barely adults, fighting to stay alive.
I don’t know what to tell the families I meet in the emergency room, in the trauma ICU, and in the morgue when they ask me why. I can’t worry about Syria right now because I am working to help the people right here. I am worried about the ones I meet every day, in a country that has neglected them. We sit together in the waiting room and at bedside, hoping to hear good news from the doctor, anything that will bring a glimmer of hope. On the television in the background, we hear the voice of the very person we hoped would change all of this say, “The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.” The person who was supposed to bring hope to the people I pray with, is about to give their hope to another country. Yes, the moral thing to do is not to stand and do nothing. You are right, yet you stand there, in your own backyard and do nothing.
My prayers and my heart are heavy. What hope or comfort I have, I give to the people I will be with. I need to go to bed soon because Mondays are tough for me, but not as tough as it will be for those I will meet. As the surgical/trauma chaplain, I will be doing what I do every Monday, meeting families and patients who come into the hospital by some trauma experience over the weekend. It usually takes all day to visit. I wonder how many got shot, beaten, drugged, or left for dead because their hope was gone and tomorrow; they will be fighting for their lives – again.
Tomorrow, I will stand beside them in prayer.
Where will you be standing tomorrow, Mr. President?
Praying for Peace, Comfort and Hope for us all,
Rev. Linda C. Moore, Chaplain