By Jordan Leahy
When I was a kid, I was terrified of thunderstorms. Celestial rumblings and quaking ground elicited great anxiety until much later in life than I care to admit. When I saw the clouds approaching, I’d prepare a makeshift nest in the closest beneath the staircase. I’d take books or a card game and hide out until the storm passed.
In adulthood, I find such storms soothing, a relief from summer heat and time to be close with my family. Storms create a time for various activities of stillness and rest. When the clouds come into view, anticipation builds at the coming refreshment.
This past summer in Charlottesville has been brutally hot and humid in both the literal and figurative senses. Those of us in the faith-based and wider activist community are weary and in need of relief. The heat we have faced has been harsh and ongoing. The white supremacists that have been taunting and tormenting have taken pride in the stress they have inflicted on our small city.
In our moment, thunder is one of the metaphors of choice in the resurgence of overt White Supremacy. Indeed, they often use the imagery of thunder to express a fascist version of a “haunting spectre.” Evoking imagery of Norse gods, they strive to demonstrate the inevitable cementing of their dominance over their weaker adversaries. It’s an expression of the logic of Empire, based in fears of scarcity, fears that insist the means of prosperity are through violence, extraction, and exploitation.
Similar to my fear of storms in childhood, we see an abstract expression of this same anxiety in white nationalist imagery. We see a lack in both emotional development and perspective. The thunder rolls, indeed. But rather than being an expression of the inescapable destruction of their perceived enemies and their unrealized fears of a racially just society, it is the echo of Amos’ prophesying of an ever-flowing stream.
As my friend Claire Hitchins, herself a Charlottesville based artist, sings in her song “When It Rains,” thunder is the groaning of creation for the immanent and inevitable rolling waters of Justice. The thunder is the tension of living in and embodying Hope. It’s the frightening call to embrace Love over Fear. Will we lean into living out the Beloved Community? Or will we live in the soul-corroding grip of Fear?
Let us leave behind youthful fears and embrace the soothing sounds of thunder and rain. Let us bask in the cooling showers of Justice.
When it rains, it’s gonna pour down.
May it be so.