I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and when I was a kid, my mother used to take me to the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue and while she was inside listening to a concert I would run around on the beautiful grounds. Anyone who has lived in DC for any period of time will sooner or later have some connection to this remarkable edifice, which calls itself “a catalyst for spiritual harmony in our nation, reconciliation among faiths, and compassion in the world.”
The Cathedral will certainly embody those words in the event that is being planned for the Third Wear Orange Day, which is coming up on Friday, June 2. And what the Cathedral will do that evening is bathe this remarkable House of Worship’s West front in orange from 8 P.M. until midnight as a symbol of the Congregation’s support of the Wear Orange day.
This event started as a community response to the shooting death of 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago, but has now grown to national and even international proportions. The list of supporters, including media influencers, entertainers, non-profit agencies and organizations, municipalities and others just goes on and on down a website page and more than 150 landmark buildings and sites will be adorned by some kind of orange embellishment to mark this auspicious event.
But I want to get back to what the National Cathedral is doing on Friday because it could serve as a symbol about what reducing gun violence should really be about. Back in 2008, as part of the Centennial celebration (the construction actually began in 1897 but cathedrals have a funny way of taking a long time to be built) the Cathedral mounted an outside exhibition by the Swiss lighting artist Gary Hofstetter, of which a picture of one of the exhibition displays accompanies this text. The exhibition was called ‘Lighting to Unite,’ which flowed directly from the Centennial address delivered the year before by Bishop Desmond Tutu entitled, Reconciliation: Hope for a Troubled World. And in his address, the recipient of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize winner said, “Reconciliation is not an easy option. It cost God the death of his son.”
When I started thinking about writing a column on Wear Orange Day, I had to ask myself what I would be really expressing when I walked around on Friday sporting one of my hunting vests. Because don’t make the mistake of thinking that Mike the Gun Guy is going to traipse around in a little piece of orange plastic that you can pick up at Wal Mart for ten bucks. No, my vest is part of a jacket ensemble made by Laksen of Denmark, and as J. P. Morgan used to say, “If you have to ask what it costs….”
But the point is that if I’m participating in this important event, I want to understand what it really means. And I don’t think this event should only be seen as a way to raise consciousness about what happens to people who get injured with guns. Because the truth is that the only way we will ever see a real decline in gun violence is if we figure out a way to make people understand that everyone involved in a shooting is a victim of violence caused by a gun. And the only way we can do that, the only way we can make our entire society share in the tasks which must be accomplished to reduce gun violence, is to follow what Bishop Tutu said.
Whether you point a gun at yourself or at someone else, gun violence is the most shattering way to deprive us all of the joys and benefits of reconciliation whose everlasting values are embodied in the presence and spirit of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Which is why we should all go to see the Cathedral bathed in an orange glow come Friday night. Go to the Cathedral, stand there in meditation or in prayer, it’s the right thing to do.