THE DARKEST HOUR, as they say, comes one sliver of a moment before dawn. We have been experiencing our nation’s darkest “day” since well before the moment the Confederacy fired its first shot at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. That cannonball tore time in two, each successive battle of the Civil War ripping the sky farther and farther apart. After the war we saw stars, possibilities—the 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments to come.
Between May 28 and June 1 of this year, flames rose from numerous U.S. cities. One fire leveled a cinder-block structure that housed bathrooms and a maintenance office near the White House grounds. In the darkness we were forced to confront our hearts when tears filled our eyes as we watched a Starbucks burn, in the shadow of our numbed response when we first learned of George Floyd’s death—another Black person dead. Yes, property damage is mournful. The destruction is a crime because of the impact the losses have on people. But no, this kind of property damage is not “violent,” not in the manner of violence against people, which defaces the image of God, or against anything that holds the breath of God. Buildings are made by people, not by God. Nor do brick and mortar hold the breath of God. They do not feel. They do not have a family. Things can be replaced. Life cannot.