The setting was a several centuries old Church yard on the southwestern edge of the Catskills. It was embedded with mankind’s lessons. I suspect there were peacemakers and hell-raisers resting side by side.
My wife and I were back in Church, well sort of. The Church itself was off to our right and unoccupied. The sun lit the socially distanced congregation; shade in the background provided more comfort.
I can say with absolute confidence that over the decades sermons have lamented division and reminded the congregants, “blessed are the peacemakers.” This Beatitude can be found in Matthew 5:9 and concludes: they are “the sons of God.” I am sure that this Beaverkill neighborhood had peacemakers — they worked at holding things together.
If you institutionalize the word peacemaker, the top of head impression should be Church. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, a peacemaker, fully recognizing sinful natures, preached for both justice and its companion, peace. An absence of justice, an absence of peace.
While we were in Church, Congressman John Lewis’s body was carried across Selma, Alabama’s Edmund Petty’s Bridge. Lewis, a protege of Dr. King and a peacemaker, had been beaten on that bridge during a peaceful march in 1965. This time Alabama State Troopers saluted. Peacemakers transform.
Dr. King, John Lewis and untold peacemakers did not yield as they fought for equality under the law. Their peaceful actions revealed the ugliness of myth and tribal violence. Their foresight and courage triggered rapid and profound changes toward a legal framework of equality.
Yet myths die hard. Prejudices tend to recede generationally. Equality is hard work — push is required, but ultimately peaceful pressure collects allies and progress is made.
We are all struggling in one way or another with virtual. We do it, but we know it is a thin veneer. I was reminded this last Sunday, in a sunlit cemetery, just how thin.
This summer and well into the fall should provide opportunity for peaceful and protected gatherings. The vast network of public parks should open up for the peacemakers. If assault shapes the news, progress will be the victim.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.