Life As It Should Be

Scooter season has finally returned to Minneapolis! My Kymco People 150 was polished, serviced and filled with gas when I retrieved it from storage at the Scooterville dealership yesterday. (Yes, that’s really the name.) Riding home felt like one of those “Ah, life as it should be!” kind of moments.

Although a ride to Scooterville had been offered, I deliberately wanted to take the bus. Yes, I love my “bike” for the sheer enjoyment riding provides.  But a big motivation is cost savings and energy conservation. So, why use the extra fossil fuels when a bus is going in that direction anyway! Besides, every time I ride a city bus it has proven to be a very enlightening reintroduction to the city on which we live. Yesterday did not disappoint.

You may have noticed that four presidents gathered in Austin, TX this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. This towering achievement of the Johnson administration ended legal racial segregation in public places. Again, it prohibited legal segregation by race in public places. The force of law can protect certain rights and proscribe some behaviors. It cannot change human hearts.

Charles M. Blow observes a really tragic fact. “Now we are facing another, worsening kind of segregation, one not codified but cultural: We are self-sorting, not only along racial lines but also along educational and income ones, particularly in our big cities. … Our cities are increasingly becoming vast outposts of homogeneity and advantage, arching ever upward, interspersed by deserts of despair, all of which produces in them some of the highest levels of income inequality ever seen in this country.” [link]

Blow cites a report by Stanford researchers: “The proportion of families living in affluent neighborhoods more than doubled from 7 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2009. Likewise, the proportion of families in poor neighborhoods doubled from 8 percent to 18 percent over the same period.”

According to a study published last year in the journal Education and Urban Society, “Students are more racially segregated in schools today than they were in the late 1960s and prior to the enforcement of court-ordered desegregation in school districts across the country.”

Riding the bus confirmed Blow’s contention: We need to see people other than ourselves in order to empathize. If we don’t live around others we do ourselves and our society damage because our ability to relate becomes impaired. It’s easy to demonize, or simply dismiss, people you don’t know or see. It’s in this context that we can keep having inane conversations about the “habits” and “culture” of the poor and “inner city” citizens. It’s nearly impossible to commiserate with the unseen and unknown.

Yes, I ride my scooter because it’s fun, saves me money and lessening my consumption of fossil fuels makes me feels socially responsible. Picking up my scooter yesterday taught me another lesson: I need to get off my scooter from time to time and ride the bus if I am truly to see the world in which we live!

I am inclined to suggest that we dispense with the overly ritualized washing of feet on Holy Thursday or the sanitized “reverencing” of the cross on Good Friday. Instead of going to church, ride a bus across town sometime this “holy” week. Sit for one hour with a community as much our own as our self-sorted congregations.  Get beyond “the law” and our domesticated “public” liturgies.

Whose face do we see?

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