Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Rapier-Like Wit

In the summer of 1968 I was asked to be part of a group of clergy who would go to Grant Park in downtown Chicago and serve as "mediators" between the police and the crowds of antiwar youth who were camped out there in an effort to influence the Democratic Convention then in session. The idea was for us to wander around the park, striking up random conversations and making our presence known. At one point, a beaded young man with a confident demeanor asked me, "I suppose you plan to mediate with the police by reliance upon your rapier-like wit?"
It was a let-down, as I had thought I was being quite funny, relevant, and hip. It all became academic in a few minutes, however, as Mayor Daly's police force fired tear gas into the crowd and swept us all out of the park, clubbing indiscriminately at reporters, demonstrators, and mediators as we fled down the sidestreets.
Neither clerical collar nor rapier-like wit mattered on that occasion, but only brute force and determination to defend the status quo. The same held true of the convention itself, which opted for a pro-war candidate in Hubert Humphrey, who went on to lose to Richard Nixon in the General Election.
Whether as activists, mediators, or even chaplains to the establishment we often seem irrelevant, ridiculous, and self-deceived, swept from the field by whoever has the tear gas and mocked by the worldly-wise.
So what? I'm still glad I was there in Grant Park. Glad that I am still inclined to be a mediator and a reconciler and a peacemaker. Glad that I can be forgiven for my attempts at rapier-like wit. Glad that you are reading these lines and might want to tell one of your stories also.
Peace be with you.