I find myself, on days like this, casting about for someone to blame… I blame everyone I can think of, and I am filled with rage.
And then I try and find compassion. Compassion for the people I blame; compassion for the people I do not understand. Compassion doesn’t always work so well.
I remember, as a young man, listening on the radio to Dr. King in 1968. He asked — of us — compassion, and we responded, not necessarily because we felt it, but because he convinced us if we could find compassion, if we could express compassion, and if we could just pretend compassion, it would heal us, so much more than vengeance could. And he was right: it did. But not enough.
…More compassion is required of us, and an even greater effort is required of us, and we are all, I think, every one of us, tired. We’re tired of understanding; we’re tired of waiting; we’re tired of trying to figure out why our children are not safe, and why our efforts to make them safe seem to fail. We’re tired.
But we must know that we have made some progress, and blame will only destroy it. Blame will breed more violence, and we have had enough of that. Blame will not rid our streets of crime, and drugs, and fear, and we have had enough of that. Blame will not strengthen our schools, or our families, or our workforce: blame will rob us of those things, and we have had enough of that.
And so I ask you today to dig down deep with me and find that compassion in your hearts, because it will keep us on the road, and we will walk together, and work together, and slowly, slowly — too slowly — things will get better.
JIMMY SMITS, as Matt Santos, from the “Undecideds” episode of The West Wing.
A beautiful moment in television; an enduring message.
I happened to see this episode a few nights ago as my girlfriend and I are making our way through the last season of The West Wing on Netflix. It struck me then, as it does now, how appropriate and timely this message is given what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri.