Mark 5:17

so they began to beg Jesus to leave their region.

native folk are shunted
from reservation to reservation
as one more valuable resource
justifies one more exploitation

commercial considerations trump
one life or many or all
your bleeding heart threatens
my provisional possessions

in such an unequal contest
birds in hand and traps for more
dare not be put at risk
for less than even more

call out state police and militia
call forth religious prosperity
demand do-gooders return to fishing
remand small-ball healers to exile

invisible native women and children
lead inevitably to an explosion
with no canary warning
mammon’s hollowness implodes

Antecedents are tricky at the best of times. In stressful situations, their vagueness, can add to the confusions. “They” does not refer back to the immediate eye-witnesses, but to all those who came out to see about the report of a mass pig suicide.

The considered judgment rendered here is that the economic, political, military considerations are worth more than one person. In John’s Gospel, Caiaphas’ memorable phrase will reflect this ancient and very contemporary communal sentiment as a choice between one Person and a whole Nation/Empire.

Given the Roman counter-insurgency actions during this time and the ever-present threat of one power or another that will further disadvantage us in the present, this is one of those decisions we will do our best to explain, normalize, categorize, and forget. Having experienced the trampling might of empire makes this an understandable response.

The seeds of cognitive dissonance sown by this choice are still present and are enough to haunt for generations. When we see ourselves as the one being given up, it can change the calculus of response. It is this question of communal value that Jesus is listening for, whether 2,000 years ago or earlier today. Questions of the intersections of our identity continually bubble to the top. How many dismissals of another person or group will I witness before I see our common good at risk and expand my responses?

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