That’s How the Light Gets In

Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” has sometimes felt like a cliché to me, something to toss around when the personal or collective tunnel is in all likelihood ending. Tonight, though, it’s much more truth than cliché.

Whether you’re reading this in India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Israel, Greece, Switzerland, France, the UK, or the US, I’m afraid the killing of George Floyd by police in our Twin City across the Mississippi River is known to you. In the viral video, his calls for help – “I can’t breathe” – mark a stark contrast to the three silent police officers who look on as their brother officer plants his knee on George Floyd’s neck, applying BVD (“The Carotid”).

The day after the killing, fearful of the fires and looting that had occurred in Minneapolis, many Saint Paul businesses near me – cafes, restaurants, shops – hired carpenters to board up windows.

That day after the killing, as I took my two short neighborhood walks – part of requisite pandemic therapy – I saw what quickly became commonplace.

Tonight we still hear the sirens and helicopters, but many fewer, and by now most of us can tune them out. We’re not out of the tunnel, but let me mix that metaphor even more, and say that, yes, there is some light about to come through the crack.

Quite possibly, the desperate hunt for hope has started to reveal some of its treasure. Around the corner from my apartment this afternoon, I came across this group producing a mural to cover the boards that had been put up over the windows.

Work in Progress on Selby Avenue, Saint Paul

And there’s more.
The other day, a friend and her son – some of Totino-Grace High School‘s finest – designed their own Anthem, this one in the form of a question.

I’ll have one in my window soon. And maybe inside my sunroom, too, facing me, so I can adapt the spiritual practice (cf, below)

In her letter introducing the sign, Christy recalled putting a different one outside her home as she began working against the Marriage Amendment in 2012. Everyday when she looked at the “Vote No” sign in her lawn, she prayed for those who had gone before her – at lunch counter sit-ins, marches: people who sometimes gave their lives to clear the way for people like her and her husband and their children.Christy referred to this as a spiritual practice, and of course it was.

Now, I need to start that, too.