The Los Angeles Riots happened twenty years ago on April 29, 1992. I was living in Los Angeles at that time and I remembered not only the non-stop media coverage, but also the sight (the smoke in the sky), the sound (the siren of the police cars and fire trucks) and the smell (burning plastic) of that day and the days after. I remembered most vividly the feeling of being torn between the compassion for the anger that people felt and the dismay at the disturbing destructive behaviors.
In retrospect, I now see that the underlying cause was an unsustainable community. In the United States, we were taught that we are all equal and each individual has inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But for many trying to survive in unsustainable communities, where resources were not flowing, we heard the immediate rebuke: BUT NOT FOR ME. “Look, we got solid proof this time – the video tape of the beating of Rodney King by the four policemen (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno) – and yet we still don’t have justice! The system acquitted them!” The anger, for many, translated into: lets take what we can get now because we will never get our share no matter how hard we try.
The destruction and looting by people who lived in the same neighborhood indicated to me that people were not connected. If they had real relationships with their neighbors, they would not be stealing and destroying their properties. Not only were they not connected with one another, they were not connected with the source of sustainism -- the belief in the abundance of creation to provide for all. A sustainist believes that if we share what we have, there will be enough to feed everyone, to shelter everyone and to enable everyone to live a productive, happy life. By not being connected, they were like branches being cut from the vine – dried up and ready to burn when the spark of anger flew.
As I commemorate this tragic event that happened 20 years ago, I am reminded of the danger of disconnection—the deficiency of the currency of relationship. As a sustainist, I must reaffirm that my work and ministry must include creating networks locally and globally so that the people are connected to each other through love and compassion and mutual respect and more importantly, using the currency of relationship they developed, they may tap into the flow of the abundant sources for life by creating a time and place where they speak truth to each other and the system, and foster social, economic, spiritual and ecological wellness.
Invite members of your community to gather and explore ways to develop currency of relationship:
Reflection Questions for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
1 John 4:7-21
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world
Upcoming Opportunities to Study with The Sustainist:
May 4-5, 2012
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