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« Maybe next to last... | Main | Two emails »

Jun 19, 2006


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Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, I read the TRC report. I don't regret making the effort, and I posted my own thoughts on my own blog. But I've been reading your posts and columns on this subject for a while now, and whatever you're trying to accomplish here just feels very forced.

Where forgiveness is concerned, I suggest that you do some reading on "cheap grace".

Everybody's "truth" in this mess is different. I do not share your belief that "engaging" these particular "truths" will "reconcile" anything. I also don't believe that forced, contrived apologies are either meaningful or "powerful" . . . or ultimately in the City of Greensboro's best interests.

Perhaps the best one can hope for is a separate peace (I am NOT speaking of races but ideologies)? And maybe City leaders (and most citizens) already recognize that? Maybe it explains some of the silence?

Cara Michele

"Where forgiveness is concerned, I suggest that you do some reading on 'cheap grace'... I also don't believe that forced, contrived apologies are either meaningful or 'powerful'..."

Well said, Dr. Mary.

Reconciliation is a spiritual process that involves repentance and forgiveness. It also requires willing participants.

Ed Cone

Not everyone who starts out unwilling remains unwilling. Reconciliation is a process, not an event.

If the survivors can willingly come forward with a message of regret and perhaps forgiveness, that is itself of value. If it leads others to make statements of their own, well, that could be profound.

Maybe you are right, and nothing meaningful will come of this.

I don't see that as a reason not to try.

Cara Michele

Me: "Reconciliation is a spiritual process..."

Ed: "Reconciliation is a process, not an event."

Huh? Maybe you were responding to Dr. Mary...?

Ed Cone

I'm responding to you both, and to all the people who focus on the reasons this process won't work instead of on ways that it might.

Part of the reconciliation process is spiritual, parts are more mundane and practical.

Your language is lofty, but to what end?

Steve Flynn

Dr. Johnson,

How can you characterize Ed Cone's views as 'forced'? What does that mean? Assuming what he writes reflects what he feels and believes, are you insinuating that he's being disingenous? He suggests that one of the Parties to this be first to step up and apologize. Forced? It sounds like spiritual teachings to me. And the alternative is what?

Where forgiveness is concerned, it takes all sides' willingness to listen and dialogue with the other. The alternative is oppressive rightiousness.


About 10 years ago, I read "Learning to Forgive," by Doris Donnelly, and later exchanged some e-mail with the author. One of the major points she makes in her book is that forgiveness is, or can be, very freeing for the wronged party -- irrespective of whether the party who committed the wrong has said or done anything to deserve forgiveness. And, in fact, in my reporting I found some people who had suffered horrible wrongs (e.g., the murder of a child) who, somehow ("by the grace of God," I think many would say), were able to forgive the person who had committed the wrong -- and felt so much better afterwards. Obviously, not everyone can do this, and in some circumstances not everyone who can do this should. But for those who can, it can be a major, positive life change: a refusal to let one's entire life be defined by one bad act by another person.

This is just an observation that I hope will broaden and deepen the community's conversation beyond simple notions of tit-for-tat, Kum-ba-ya and cheap grace. It's not intended to be guidance on what anyone with any connection to Nov. 3 "ought" to be doing.

Cara Michele

Lex, I agree that a wronged party may find peace through forgiving the offender, even when the offender hasn't repented or asked for forgiveness. But reconciliation is a step further. Reconciliation is about reconciling two (or more) parties to one another. That requires willingness on all sides, and it requires acknowledgement of wrongs, repentance, forgiveness. Any of the parties involved in Nov. 3rd can forgive and move on separately, but that's not the goal, as I understand it. For there to be reconciliation, there will have to be acknowledgement, repentance, forgiveness -- and that takes courage and effort. I'm still hoping that we'll see that take place. Fortunately, there's no expiration date on the process, as far as I know. ;)

Ed Cone

There are multiple wronged parties here.

Some of the wronged parties also bear some responsibility for the wrongs done to others.

One way to move forward would be to identify a wronged party that bears no responsibility.

The logical candidate is the neighborhood, which had the march foisted upon it and which did not receive adequate police protection when it was invaded by gunmen.

The City and the survivors could both make credible apologies or statements of regret to the people of Morningside and east Greensboro, maybe to all of Greensboro (I don't know what to do with the Klan in this scenario, they have much to apologize for but that doesn't seem to be their point of view).

That would be a start, and a start is better than no start.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, I think that many people have "tried" on this "T&R" process and have found that it does not fit our needs or "truths". It does not mean we are focusing on the negative. It means that this process does not work for us . . . that some ideas/people cannot be reconciled and we accept that. It's called being honest.

My Daddy was raised in Greensboro. I was born there. My Mom and I went to university there . . . again, something I have spoken to in my blog - a blog you encouraged me to develop yet you have not linked (I write what I feel too - you have dismissed it - just as you dismissed Cara with the snarky, "Your language is lofty, but to what end?").

I see the Klan/Nazi/CWP incident of 1979 as a bizarre aberration . . . a one-in-a-gadzillion coming together of improbables . . . completely divorced from my life experience of what Greensboro was, and is and can be. I think a lot of people feel that way, and we're tired of reading that we're Neanderthals in the newspaper.

I'm all for people who might get something from this process moving forward with it . . . as Cara Michelle says, there is no expiration date on the process (by the way, she's right-on in her observations on the differences between forgiveness & reconciliation). But PLEASE do let those of us who have considered it all and moved on, move on . . . without guilting us to death. Stop beating the dead horse.

Are you planning to write a book? (I guess that does speak to my wonderment about your motives for pushing this agenda).

Lex, you too should do some (more) reading on "cheap grace". It's not a "simple notion". Yes, forgiveness can be very freeing. But "one bad act" (or a series of acts) often irrevocably changes lives. I speak from personal experience. It's very hard to watch those who committed the act sail along unscathed as you struggle to pick up the pieces (especially when "justice" is available but not accessible) . . . and it makes forgiveness much harder.

Steve, I call them as I see them. I noted in my own musings on this subject that some people involved in this "process" (whatever this process is), have adopted a "cram it down their throats until they care" attitude/approach. It is "self-righteous" to tell someone that they must feel one way or another about this process. Speaking "practically", current city leaders have already expressed "regret" . . . for something that happened nearly thirty years ago. Moreover, the City of Greensboro also paid out damages in the civil suit (paid with tax dollars - the money does not grow on trees). Again, forced apologies fix nothing and are a legal minefield for the city. It is not "practical". And the only thing it will "start" is another round of lawsuits.

And lawsuits don't fix anything.

Ed Cone

I'm writing about a topic that interests me, Mary.

You don't see value in it? Fine.

You want to keep writing that you don't see value in it? Also fine.


[[Lex, you too should do some (more) reading on "cheap grace". It's not a "simple notion".]]

I never said that it was. I said some of the conversations I've heard about the TRC report have suggested it was.

[[Yes, forgiveness can be very freeing. But "one bad act" (or a series of acts) often irrevocably changes lives.]]

I never said otherwise.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Must have hit a nerve (the crack about the book?). Actually Ed, I have lately avoided commentary on this blog like the plague - because there's no use in disagreeing with you, and I've been "coned" once too often. For all of the blather about being inclusive and one voice making a difference, from the cheap seats, your notion of "blogsboro" is a network of the select few who follow your lead (the N&R is banking that it's back to them). Ultimately I think it is going to backfire, if it has not already.

I would point out that YOU have the advantage and the connections in the writing department - and you/JR/AJ seem determined to make the rest of us stay in your ECHO chamber on this particular subject (TRC). If one of your goals is honest dialogue, perhaps you should "reconcile" that many of us are telling you that we want out of the chamber . . . that we'd like to see "our" newspaper . . . our "town square" just "report the report" and move on . . . write about other topics that interest US . . . and perhaps donate some of that precious N&R column space to other stories worthy of coverage?

Whatever happens with this "process" HAPPENS now. It fades to the background of history or it moves forward to benefit the psyches of those directly affected. But forgiveness and reconciliation are personal issues . . . individual decisions. They cannot be forcefed to the general public - by the TRC, by prominent bloggers, by the newspaper, or by anyone else. And, in my (humble) opinon, the world has moved on. The events of 11/3/79 happened. It was awful. But life is not fair - and there are LOADS of awful things happening in the here and now that deserve our attention. The leaders of the Greensboro of 2006 have no obligation or "moral responsibility" to apologize for the leaders & mistakes of the Greensboro of 1979 . . . different people in a different time.

I will keep writing - especially about one story that I think is long overdue for some column space. Thank you for the permission.

Lex, (respectfully) I've re-read your post: "This is just an observation that I hope will broaden and deepen the community's conversation beyond SIMPLE notions of tit-for-tat, Kumbaya, and cheap grace". You categorized the community's conversation as "simple", so you most certainly DID say that - whether you meant to or not.

Maybe you should "apologize":)

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