This One's On the House

June 12, 2020 by

Last night I watched the movie Just Mercy. For the month of June, it’s being streamed free by Warner Bros. on several platforms to educate us about systemic racism in America.

A month ago, I thought the media would never be able to deal with anything besides the coronavirus pandemic. Less than two weeks after the grim milestone of one hundred thousand Covid-19 deaths in the USA, George Floyd was murdered, and the virus has gone below the fold.

From my home in upstate New York, I watched the news, I read, I cried, I learned new acronyms. I listened to my friends talk, and I talked with my children, two of whom are in school, in Boston and Durham. My Boston child has been protesting, and I told her I was proud of her and asked her to stay safe. My Durham daughter has participated in long Zoom meetings with her classmates, trying to talk their way through some of this and provide a forum for clear-eyed discussion among grad students.

A friend remarked on what he perceived as a sense of hopelessness in the protests, and I thought to myself au contraire, these protests generate hope. Someone else said, “I can’t take sides.” I thought, “I can certainly take sides. I am taking sides. I will always take sides, and that side will be with the oppressed, no matter who they are.” For isn’t that the position Jesus asks us to be in? Blessed are the meek, the poor, those who mourn, those who cry out for justice.

just mercy Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

I watched Just Mercy on a hot night. It is a long film – two hours plus. My heart pounded when Stevenson’s character is pulled over for the first time, and my anger ignited as he is strip-searched upon entering the prison to see his clients. “Lawyers don’t get strip-searched!” I closed my eyes at the execution of Herbert Richardson. The yellow chair, the leather straps, the sick fear that I could taste in the peace of my upstate home. Call me a coward, but I couldn’t watch. I did note the quiet conversion that took place in the heart of one of the prison guards, masterfully displayed by a gentling of his features. 

This is not a movie review or critical synopsis. But Warner Bros. gets my nomination for some award for putting this film out for free. Bryan Stevenson’s eloquent and impassioned words have ordered my mind. At the end of the film, in a Senate hearing he says: “… if we can look at ourselves closely and honestly, I believe we will see that we all need justice, we all need mercy, and perhaps we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” And there it is. There is only one side to be on, and we are all there, in our deepest truths. Because, to use Stevenson’s words again, “We are all broken by something. We all have hurt someone and have been hurt. We share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.”

So I have taken a knee in protest, to use the current language, and it is a knee of prayer, of longing, and my prayer is for all of us who are broken.


About the author

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey and her husband Stephen live at the Mount Community in New York State.

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