Power Over

“What posturing and performance share in common is a deep disconnect between the inspired heart and our gut instincts, between rising up and sensing ground where all life dissolves into the rich humus of earth. Make no mistake white bodies are capable of sensing deeply and can become conscious of the insidious ways that colonization is held within our flesh and blood. We may squirm and distract ourselves, but we have what it takes to dissolve these century-old impulses to cage, control and power over body. With awareness, we can begin to recognize our conditioning and through attention we can allow our primal impulses to grow a capacity to dissolve the distortions and claim life-supportive gestures and expressions.” Liz Koch, excerpted from the post on her website, Core Awareness, titled “White Bodies, Psoas, & Gesturing Power Over”

We colonized the land and the people of the land we now call the United States of America and we colonized our own bodies. Power over is the rabid beast created when we divorce ourselves from being soft, hairy animal human. We infused our religious beliefs with power over. We insisted on obedience like we insisted on this land, raping and violating the bodies of children in the name of discipline and good behavior and, for some, godliness. I can say that my daughter and two sons have birthed me because they broke my heart open and opened me up to my own tenderness and the validity of the wild human. I could not fathom how the sort of discipline inflicted on me, and on my sisters, in the name of Jesus was anything remotely connected to love and that realization occurred when a baby girl came out of my body. Everything changed. Who was this sacred creature? How could you thump her on the forehead for speaking her mind or challenging you at the dinner table? How? You must be divorced from your own body, colonized from head to toe to soul if you do this and you must be addicted to power over. Dethroning the inner tyrant anchored on the seat of the heart and placed there by fear, that is a work on which to commit a life. Enshrining love as a fully-muscled set of doings and thinkings and makings of solid evidence of love and value decolonizes the body, rids the mind of toxins long dormant. And the work never ends. There is no arrival. I don’t know what I’d do without people like James Baldwin who lives though he’s gone and Liz Koch who is here and now shining light on needful truths.

Here’s to freedom from power over and losing all the baggage that goes with it.

Prayer #3 (for protesters)

Each step taken, every chant and cry,
every movement for justice,
every insistence on equal rights,
every standard and arm raised for safety,
for the end to brutality and racism at the hands of…

police, government, the system,

each one land home, right to the heart
of what brings true change, what sets aright
the system set in motion against humanity itself.

Revolutionize hope, radicalize grace.

Every effort met with heaven’s support,
earth’s nurturance and the flesh and blood strength
of all who embody truth and justice.

Each one held safely by love.

Righteous Rebellion

“The world needs your rebellion and the true song of your exile. In what has been banned from your life, you find a medicine to heal all that has been kept from our world. We must find the place within where things have been muted and give that a voice. Until those things are spoken, no truth can find its way forward. The world needs your unbelonging. It needs your disagreements, your exclusion, your ache to tear the false constructions down, to find the world behind this one.” Toko-Pa Turner

The Unborn

“’The unborn’ are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn… You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”
Dave Barnhart

I Believe Her

One of the reasons Republicans can go ahead with Kavanaugh’s confirmation while a good many of them find Dr. Ford’s allegations credible is that they place such a low value on the sanctity of a woman’s right to her own body, her own space, her own time, her own mind. And, yet, at the same time, they place a premium on her ability to smooth ruffled feathers, look “pleasing”, be “pleasing”, and basically push all the buttons that mommy presumably failed to do so many years ago, or did so well they’ve never realized the world isn’t mommy.
We are, at once, compelled to nurse and coddle our men while simultaneously empowering them to be all they can be, as if the fact that they require our perpetual hand-holding isn’t enough to challenge the very idea that they are empowered, much less that it might present the credible question of whether or not the whole paradigm needs to be tossed.
This speaks to why a man can speak up after 40 years of silence and declare a priest his abuser and not be ridiculed. He is not a responsible party in that paradigm of the feminine burden; he is, instead, the one who receives the benefit of the doubt and the one whose sexuality – especially if it fits the hegemonic mold – precludes him from any doubt, for surely, as a man, to admit he was overpowered and violated (since his role, his duty is to be perpetually empowered and in control) is the greatest violation of the paradigm. Why would any man admit to something happening to him, something especially that challenges the myth of masculine domination and strength?
Women, on the other hand, are responsible for perpetuating the myth, for being the ones who, by their less than, second-class, weaker status affirm the superiority of the male. We are meant to be inspiring and inspired, independent and yet not to the point of challenging male superiority, accommodating, brilliant, child-bearing, gorgeous and never-failing in the face of unyielding criticism even when we are called out for abandoning the great paradigm or for merely stepping a toe out of those maddening realms – we must first be sure we held our faces just right. If we cannot make everyone around us at least comfortable, then we must not either try too hard to make folks happy in too obvious a way otherwise, we may make folks ill at ease. We must grin and bear it when the product of our efforts to fall in line do not always go according to plan. The great white God is truly, intentionally a motherfucker from where I’m sitting, for he is a creation of patriarchy.
I was told by my father when on the cusp of my 20’s that “anything that happens between you and a guy is your fault.” Anything. The great burden. You wore those clothes. You looked him in the eye. You didn’t look him in the eye. You smiled. You didn’t smile. You had an attitude. You spoke your mind. You rocked the boat. You left the house, the car, the building.
I believed him for many years. I believed him until I birthed a daughter. Then it all fell apart.
Besides the feminine burden of upholding it and a host of other common human frailties, the myth of male domination rests on the brute power of the male form and the ability of a man to hold a woman down, to take the time to put his hand over her mouth, or tower over her with his fists balled, or to quote scripture at her about her wifely duties or to yell and bluster in the face of accountability before a judiciary committee. Ad Infinitum.
The GOP and many who claim Christ as their great Saviour (as did my father at the time he declared me wholly responsible for all the actions of a male towards me) rely on the myth of the work of the Cross as one that requires nothing more than that you accept it. And from there? Well, much like the t and c club, you’re a member. You can do anything except challenge the paradigm. If you’re a woman, forget it. You can’t do anything. There are only certain things and only in certain ways especially if you have had a child. This slice of “Christianity” doesn’t actually possess a moral compass apart from the paradigm that upholds the myth. You must not challenge the paradigm. That is their great “morality” and they believe in it fully.
I watched Dr. Ford yesterday and was simultaneously grieved, devastated and beyond thrilled that someone would embody such power and courage in the face of that myth. And that Anita Hill did this very thing years ago enduring the violation and ridicule, that we are still right here enrages me.
We are not going to progress by pulling back and we aren’t going to be free of the paradigm if we don’t upend it fully.
I’m so very proud of Dr. Ford and of everyone who has rallied for investigations and, at the same time, I salute those men who stand with women outside the myth, who know their true power rests, not in domination, but in welcoming the dance.

Profoundly Human Endeavors

“Even once the true cause of my disease is discovered, if we don’t change our institutions and our culture, we will do this again to another disease. Living with this illness has taught me that science and medicine are profoundly human endeavors. Doctors, scientists and policymakers are not immune to the same biases that affect all of us. We need to think in more nuanced ways about women’s health. Our immune systems are just as much a battleground for equality as the rest of our bodies. We need to listen to patients’ stories and we need to be wiling to say ‘I don’t know.’ ‘I don’t know’ is a beautiful thing. ‘I don’t know’ is where discovery starts. And if we can do that, if we can approach the great vastness of all that we do not know, and then rather than fear uncertainty, maybe we can greet it with a sense of wonder.” Jennifer Brea on CFS/ME and the ways the medical model can improve for all of us.

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis aka Alienation

I so often wrestle with whether or not to express what CFS/ME does to my life, how it shapes the landscape of my mind, my will. More often, I choose to sparingly articulate how it impacts me, simply in the interest of sanity. But I find, as more and more people wake up to the truth of this disease, that it is becoming more empowering, less overwhelming to go ahead and speak up. The ignorance is melting away as people realize it’s not a psychological issue but a real assault on the body.

As Jennifer Brea experienced initially, so did I. Fever over 106. Pneumonia for the first time in my life. Early 20s. Never. The. Same. After my primary care physician sent me in many different directions seeking a diagnosis, we landed on the diagnosis of CFS. And the alienation began right there in my doc’s office, with her set of prejudices awaiting me like a box, a prison cell.

Brea’s TED talk speaks to so many of the issues confronted by those who walk this path. Her words, in their affirmation of the validity and impossibility of the struggle, bring balm to those who have suffered this illness for a long long time.

Enough Free People? No.

“After we protested and went to jail and then went to court and was—had a guilty verdict, right? That week, the president came to New York and said, ‘Edward Koch was one of the great mayors in the last 50 years,’ and then said, ‘Michael Bloomberg was a terrific mayor.’ Now, this is the same person saying we’ve got to care for black boys, and black boys are being intimidated, harassed, humiliated, 1,800 a day. It’s just not a matter of pretty words, Mr. President. You’ve got to follow through in action. You see, you can’t use the words to hide and conceal your mendacity, hypocrisy and the support of criminality—or enactment of criminality when it comes to drones, you see.

And the sad thing is, Sister Amy, is that we just don’t have enough free people, let alone free black people. Black people, we settled for so little, so we get a little symbolic gesture, we get a little identification, and like on MSNBC, which is part of the Obama plantation, they start breakdancing again: ‘Oh, isn’t it so wonderful? He’s really one of us. We can now wave the flag again. We can now support our mindless Americanism,’ in the language of my dear brother Maulana Karenga, intellectual that he is. No. We ought to be over against injustice, no matter what, across the board, and be vigilant about it. I don’t care what color the president or the governor or the mayor is.” — Cornel West in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now