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Letting the pain, anger, sadness burn through me

Dear Friends,

My father called me this past weekend when I was in the car with my two boys, ages ten and thirteen. “I watched the video,” he said over the speaker phone. His voice was tight and small, the kind that lives at the intersection of barely controlled rage and overwhelming sadness. “The cop had his knee on the man’s neck for nine minutes.” And then his voice got one notch tighter and one click smaller. “At the end he was calling out for his mother, his dead mother.”

My kids’ response to the shock and hurt in my dad’s voice was swift and categoric: “Dada, what are you surprised about?” my thirteen year old said.

On the matter at hand, rather the murder at hand, the one that changed my father’s voice, perhaps permanently, the one that my kids view as simply further confirmation of the fundamental brutality and injustice of the system, there is no grey. There are no two sides. It’s not just a couple of clouds shrouding the sun. And the fire is not in the sky, it’s in the land. Sometimes containing that fire is the wrong move. Sometimes you need to let it burn through you, the sadness, the anger, the ‘Is this really still happening … STILL … still?”

Even a week later, after the protests and the wall-to-wall media coverage, it seems impossible to believe: the cruelty of a man, a uniformed officer, paid by taxpayers, carrying the legitimacy of a supposedly democratic state, squeezing the life out of another man who is whimpering for his mother over the course of nine minutes. If it was in a movie script, I would consider it too far-fetched. But as my kids will remind you, this is not a movie. This is America.

But it does not have to be. We can move together to somewhere better. I’ve found myself drawing inspiration from Woody Guthrie – the singer/songwriter – who used his gift and instrument to achieve the hopeful promise of America. You can read more about him in my latest article. And for many of us, we teach. We pastor. We preach. We listen. We coach. We counsel. We direct organizations and run programs.

We write books and essays and poems. Those are the instruments we play. That is our distinctive contribution to the world.

Let us do our work together now, play the beautiful music of American idealism, and create a spirit of hopefulness that vanquishes evil and builds a new civilization.

With hope,


Interfaith Youth Core Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is national non-profit organization working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together. To advance this vision, we work in American higher education, partnering with colleges and universities to equip students and educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to meaningfully engage complex issues of religious difference and diversity and ultimately build bonds of civility and mutual respect across lines of deep difference.

To learn more about news and updates from IFYC visit our website.

Our staff has years of experience and expertise addressing some of the most challenging issues of religious and worldview diversity facing campuses, educators, and young people today. Additionally, our national network of students, educators, and rising leaders offers a wealth of stories and perspectives on engaging religious diversity and working towards pluralism, both on campus and beyond. Get in touch with our team for inquiries, background information, connections, and interviews with IFYC staff, including our Founder and President, Eboo Patel.

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