Come To D.C.’s National Cathedral For Wear Orange Day.

1 Comment

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.”

2008_05_cathedral6             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.

cathedral             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.

 

If You Think That Wear Orange Day Won’t Making A Difference, Think Again.

Leave a comment

Sometime early in 1965, I remember there was snow on the ground, a bunch of us left our college campus, went down to Times Square and demonstrated against American troops in Viet Nam.  At the time there were only 20,000 or so fighting men over there and people who walked past us nodded politely, glanced at and then threw away our little leaflets. After an hour or so we all went home.

We never could have imagined that five years later there would be 400,000 American GIs in Southeast Asia, but we also couldn’t imagine that there were demonstrations daily in every American city, and that eventually the anti-war stance of a majority of Americans would help bring about an end to the war.

I was thinking about my experience as a college student during the Viet Nam War last week on Wear Orange Day.  Because when it started in Chicago as a way to commemorate the life (and terrible, terrible death) of Hadiya Pendleton, I don’t think that anyone believed or even imagined that in two short years this event would swell into an international occasion embracing the activities and energies of millions of average, ordinary folks like you and me.  And when I say millions, I’m not talking about single-digit millions; I’m talking about hundreds of millions – that’s right – hundreds of millions who were aware that wearing orange on June 2nd meant participating in an activity that allowed everyone to spend some time thinking about the violence caused by guns.

orange2           I didn’t notice, incidentally, that the event was embraced or even mentioned by the NRA.  Usually when some organization, politician or celebrity says anything remotely reasonable about gun violence, Gun Nut Nation’s noise machine swings into action, inundating the faithful with emails, videos, and most of all, demands for cash.  Last week it was Hillary, this week it was Katie, there are plenty of targets around.  And the reason that the number of targets keeps increasing is the same reason why participation in the Wear Orange campaign is growing by leaps and bounds, namely, the silly and stupid arguments that are trotted out again and again to explain away the senseless deaths of more than 30,000 human beings every year from gun violence simply don’t work.

In 2015 there were 55,000 people who posted #WearOrange support on social media; this year more than 200,000 posts came up; last year the hashtag registered 220 million impressions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – try seven times that number this year; in 2015 they held a Party for Peace in Chicago, last week more than 200 events took place countryside; the Empire State Building was lit orange, so were more than 125 other landmarks from sea to shining sea.  Want a list of the hundreds of companies, major personalities, political leaders and professional sports teams that wore orange?  It’s right here.

I have been following the argument over gun violence for more than thirty years, in fact it’s going on forty because I first started paying attention to the issue of guns and gun violence prevention in the run-up to GCA68. And what is so important and different about June 2nd from every previous activity designed to increase awareness about gun violence is that this time, for the first time, it didn’t grow out of an immediate response to a horrific shooting or other crazy, gun violence event.

Which means that the emotions and energy displayed on June 2nd aren’t just going to fade away.  Because #WearOrange has now taken on a life of its own; it exists because people understand and support the idea that guns are deadly and gun violence needs to fade away.  Tomorrow I’ll go walking and spot someone who just happens to be wearing orange. I’ll flash a quick grin of recognition and I’ll probably get a quick grin back.  And if this happens to me it will happen to others and it will happen more and more.

%d bloggers like this: