Some years ago a saint lived in Providence, Mahaghosananda, who comforted his people in the refugee camps of Thailand, and in the Cambodian Diaspora in South Providence. His message was lovingkindness. I don’t know what he would say to the anguish and outrage from too many years, too many broken promises and law applied without justice. We have the example of those who came before, who answered violence with peace. We have that.
There are veterans of the Civil Rights movement, who marched with Dr.King, still living and working in our city. Sometimes it feels like time is circular, or more like a spiral with each turn bringing us back around but on a different level. We cannot reconstruct the past, especially when so much of the painful uncertainty and internal conflict of those times is edited out of collective memory, but we can listen and learn- and perhaps spare ourselves from repeating tactics that didn’t work– and using tactics that did work.
This month some new Providence neighbors spoke at First Unitarian Church. They came here at the end of a long journey from Congo, where their lives were threatened for supporting education, women’s rights and equality under the law. As frustrating as it is to see the daily failure of our city to live up to its stated principles, there are those among us who can remind us of how many tools we have for change.