A Pastoral Letter
Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021
October 11, 2021
The current political and social climate in our country is brittle – if not fragmented. Yet, retrospectively, the source of the “cold civil war” we are collectively experiencing seems to have been inevitable. Everything unhinged itself because of existent structural violence in our country that only came to the fore in unprecedented ways during these last five years.
Let me be clear, structural violence is not a communist or socialist term. Unfortunately, in the current political climate, labeling people is a way to avoid topics of grave importance and dehumanize people with different views. Rather than being Americans and inviting disagreements with the process as part of our Madisonian democracy, disagreements are disingenuously labeled un-American. We are in a neo-McCarthyism era where fear and apathy dictate the politics of our civil society.
None of this favors the American people. Neither does it favor any political party – both of which use their time and money to convince the American people of how their efforts to change or improve our nation’s lot are impeded by the other – but it isn’t so. Instead, these are intended, self-inflicted wounds that are not in the best interest of their political interests or of strengthening the bonds of affection for one another and secure the liberty which we are all called to be inexhaustible stewards of.
Structural violence is a term used in Conflict Analysis and Resolution studies to identify a social construct whereby all citizens are subject to interpersonal antagonism. The nature of the violence stems from the beliefs, attitudes, and actions, which led to the foundation, consolidation, and eventual acceptance of the nature of the society. For example, in the United States, the foundation was privileged, the consolidation occurred under the banner of inequality and oppression, and later, civil society accepted that races were different, people needed to know their place, and the law would ensure that segregation would be the gold standard.
Some want to insist that a deeper study and reflection of the history of racism and bigotry in our country will weaken us. I believe this is simply exercising irrational avoidance due to fear of outcomes. The change that will be produced because of this national process will demand that we restructure our society into a benevolent and conscientious civil society, ensuring that slavery, police brutality, homophobia, anti-immigration, misogyny, and wage disparities are addressed. This means that the power sources for these sinister aspects of society will be targeted and exorcised. Only those that sustain these views have anything to fear.
All these concerns experience confluence on a day like today. Christopher Columbus is still celebrated for having “discovered” a land already here and inhabited by deeply complex societies, nations, and civilizations – which are not from India, barbarians, subhuman or condemned by God. Yet, the nature of celebrating this event -without a conscientious reflection as to the incomparable and timeless consequences of the errors is demanded to be forgotten by those who wish to forget the past or rewrite it altogether.
The presence of the Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, and Dutch, to name a few, of the European powers that came to the “New World” was imbued with power inebriated with hubris and hostility, inhospitality, and utter disdain for anything unlike their own. Please note that most of these nations could not entertain peace with one another in Europe; it guaranteed that those on this side of the Earth would be met with the same violence.
The rape and pillaging of “the Americas,” many named after holy and royal namesakes, were treated with little to no regard for the majesty of God and the sacredness of all human life. Mulatto and Mestizo (mixed-race) people were treated as subhuman and rejected by both Europeans and, eventually, by the societies introduced to the structural violence of European society. Eventually, violence toward persons, color, economics, language, upbringing, status, access to power, religious diversity, gender, sexuality, age, and other human needs and sources of identity were either praised if integrating the “in-group” of dominant society or rejected if part of the “out-group.” This Structural Violence was embraced by the oppressors and ultimately poisoned the new societies of the oppressed.
The desegregation of schools in this country was still occurring in the 1970s. This is an outrageously despicable fact that we can either choose to ignore, avoid, or have the conviction as a nation and as people who claim to love liberty as enshrined in the US Constitution. We must begin to take a day like today and appreciate the blessing of living here on this sacred land for which so much blood has been shed. In doing so, we must never forget that this land is not our land – it belongs to God, and it is not for us to do what we want to do with it. It was taken from the vulnerable; we must now care and defend them. It was taken by those who loved the land and lived in unison with it – we must learn to do the same. We took it for war and profit – we must now take peace and prosperity to all who live here from sea to shining sea. It is time to restore and reconcile our past and live into who we were supposed to be – in the presence of God and all this world.
Rev. Dr. Daniel Medina
Miami Lakes Congregational Church
Miami Lakes, FL