There have been two stories that had touched me deeply over these past few days, neither one related in anyway. The first is that of 80 year old Donald Sterling, now banned for life from the National Basketball Association and that of Clayton Lockett, probably less familiar to most, but was the recipient of a botched execution this week in Oklahoma. Neither related, neither person condoned for their behavior and actions, but both, as we sometimes forget, human beings themselves.
There aren’t many that will weep for these two men. If anything, Donald Sterling has been run through the ringer, mostly for his racist remarks but also very much for his relation to women and how he views them. I caught myself earlier this week listening to a story on the news about him and they were joking about him and this young woman. She simply provides the sex and he provides all the material goods this woman would ever need. The story continued about the rather grotesque image of him in the paper and all started to laugh. And I started to laugh. And I caught myself. This wasn’t a time for laughter, but rather weeping, and weeping hard. Why, you ask? Who hasn’t been in his place? No, maybe not on such a grand scale as Mr. Sterling, but who hasn’t had a racist thought at one point in their life, maybe not towards a person of a different color, but someone who is gay, someone who is Latino, someone who is in a lower socio-economic class than myself, a woman or a man, someone who, for whatever reason, I deemed less than myself in order to make myself look better. And I wept. Who hasn’t done it?
It takes a great deal of work on oneself to begin to move beyond such judgmental thoughts and to begin to accept and love that the person over there is really me. In that moment I prayed that when I reached his age I wasn’t still holding thoughts like that that weigh me down. I prayed that by his age I would no longer objectify men and women because of my own insecurities. I prayed that I wouldn’t have to kill another rather than confront my own prejudices, my own judgments, my own insecurities in life, because I know I have them, just like everyone else; but I also know they say more of me than the other. Have we not done to him what he had done to another? And I wept. Who hasn’t done it? Or maybe harder yet, who hasn’t been the recipient of it in one way or another?
Then there’s Clayton Lockett. My heart broke when I heard this story, not only because of the horrific crime he had committed, but to see that he too ended up dying in the same way the woman did that he had killed. A botched execution, rushed to take his life, witnesses leaving the room as they watched him struggle to breath, ending with a heart attack that consumed his life. Justice, some cried! But not really. There’s nothing just in taking another life nor for taking the life of someone who has taken a life. Life in prison, beyond the cell, a prison this man created for himself and within himself, failing to see life as gift, failing to see the dignity not only of this woman’s life but of his own. And I wept. He may have even wanted to die at this point; death was nothing to fear when you reach such extremes. I think I’d want to if I were in his place, locked behind layers of security and confinement, without human touch and care; a death he seemed to endure from the moment he arrived on death row. In the hearing of that story, yes, even hundreds of miles away, a part of me died as well, with him, the pain of violence and brokeness, stripped of dignity. And tears filled my eyes in prayer.
No, they aren’t related in anyway, but humans nonetheless, brothers, who we suffer with and seek to allow those parts of us to die in order that life may follow. Oh how painful it is to watch and even more so to endure. Can we take the time and weep with these two and the countless others that walk the same path? Can we take the time and walk in their shoes for just a moment and rather than laugh and crucify, weep? Can we take the time and feel the pain of their family and friends who now carry the burden with them, tainted by the weight of death, of one’s ego and one’s life? Can we weep for a broken humanity in which we are not immune, but rather participate? Can we weep at our own wounds that become the catalyst of hurting others? Can we weep with these men who are them but also us?