“Never allow anyone to be humiliated in your presence.” Elie Wiesel
“The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach
pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement
through everything we’ve made
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.
The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its ecstatic yowl,
The worst thing we ever did is pretend
God isn’t the easiest thing
in this Universe
available to every soul
in every breath”
From her poetry book ‘Susceptible to Light’
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called…” the masculine children of divinity, depending on which version of the Bible you may read. And yet many are those of varying gender identifications who make peace by the way they live their lives. Some stay real with themselves about their growth processes, seeking out accountability and listening to those who can constructively school them on their need for change, their toxic exceptionalism and passive/aggressive denial of systemic oppression. Some simply live it out, opening their hearts and minds to the viewpoints and lives of those who will expand their minds to move beyond the status quo, the status quo that lulls us all to sleep when our wakefulness is most needed. We are a many-varied and colorful tribe of humans hoping towards fulfillment on different levels as we struggle to recover from the oppressive backlash of centuries of authoritarianism and the resulting mindset. Some of us seek our recovery by means conducive to capturing truth, fostering freedom and encouraging growth and prosperity for everyone as we confront our demons, the darkness we all wrestle when egos clash and righteous rage collides with denial and judgement. And we wonder, “is it righteous, really?”. Apparently, according to the wise ones, we are all acting out in the wake of trauma. Some of us embody the traumatizers, and some of us war against them, but we all began in the oppressive authoritarianism that ultimately seeks to destroy soul. No one with even just a modicum of awareness will deny that abusers have been abused and neither will they deny that some who’ve been abused manage to avoid the abuser’s program through hard, painfully aware work.
The problem I have with identifying us all as victims of trauma is that such an identification could be seen as a uniting truth when there are those of the grand us who are not wanting actual unity or truth. (Truth like, love is what we do and not simply what we feel. And truth like, we’re all valuable, precious human beings. Not “truth” like, there is one God and one way and those who don’t believe will burn. Not “truth” like, we say so and so it is so.) So, sure, we’re all victims of trauma, participants in reactions against the power-over model of authority. But we’re not all growing and we’re not all seeking accountability, and on the other side of it all, we’re not all perpetuating violent and destructive acts that divide us. These distinctions deserve regard because they distinguish between those who seek to empower others and those who seek power over others, even if only vicariously.
While it’s likely true that those who are openly seeking dominion over others are victims of trauma, my experience in moving from a place of forgiveness and understanding with this slice of the population has only netted me betrayal, slander, loss, isolation and more trauma. I literally unknowingly signed up, in the name of forgiveness, unity and hope, for another round of soul-bruising loss. I thought my faith in love would prevail. It did not. I’ve learned that you can’t afford to smile and approach abused abusers with the assumption they want to actually be anything other than what they are. You can’t project your own hope for a truly noble, truly valuable, truly life-affirming legacy onto those who are “in the same boat” with you. It’s just not that simple. It’s like inviting Leviathan to tea and hoping the beast won’t be a beast. Sure, we all came from the same sea but some of us are walking on two legs and hoping to not regress to more beastly behavior while others of us are glorifying the beast by way of denial-based, narrative-skewing belief systems. The perversion of truth and rationality is unprecedented. Shift blame, redirect focus and make the victim pay. But hey, we’re all in this together? As much as we may technically be in this together, trauma bonds as they are, we are at least as much not in this together in unity, and we are not going to experience true unity with each other when anyone in the boat is eagerly perpetuating the power-over authoritarian model of “community”. The best we can do is sit on the other side of the boat and pray that our work to end generational carnage actually takes while hoping those on the other side finally wake up and join us in the work for emancipation from oppression.
And writers and historians like Rebecca Solnit help me solidify and give voice to what I see and feel during this epic time of both loss and hopeful growth here in the US. Solnit’s following expression fills up the gaps made real by a confusion of intentions on a boat adrift in the wild sea of meaning.
“The middle ground is not halfway between Nazis and antiracists. The reasonable position is not a compromise between rapists and feminists, slaveowners and abolitionists, Natives and General Crook. The truth is not midway between the liar and the truthteller. That has to be a factor in all those calls for reaching out and unity. The murderer and his intended victim don’t have to agree on what’s right. The people who were harmed don’t have to reach out to those who did the harming. The people who told the truth don’t need to make liars feel better about themselves or what they said. Those who were targeted by this war don’t have to do all the peacemaking. If reaching out and finding unity is good, the haters and liars can go find some olive branches and apologies and do the work to leave their will to destroy the rest of us behind. Then it begins. The party of hate never had a mandate; they lost the popular vote last time and this time; they may think of themselves as the real American and the gatekeepers but we don’t have to, and we don’t have to enter their gates or play by their rules. We don’t have to hate them either, but we don’t have to protect them from the consequences of their choices or sell out our principles for their comfort. When you stand on the ground of truth and justice, let others find their way to you. If you stand firm, many will in the end. Not everyone will; that does not change what truth and justice are.” Rebecca Solnit
When loving is denounced as liberal radicalism and the streets are smeared with pepper spray as children and parents retreat to their homes after being assaulted by authorities hellbent on smashing support for long-overdue change, then we’ve arrived at a time of gross darkness. When those who hold their Bibles with fervent reverence sneer at “libtards” who are guilty of wanting to feed the hungry, then we’ve come to that moment of masks falling away and the love of idol and icon embraced in the name of One who would weep at the carnage posing Christlike behavior. So much for the loaves and the fishes, the loving thy neighbor, no. See, that’s too liberal for the Jesus folk. If thy neighbor is not exactly right next door and not the exactly right American gun-toting Christian, then the greatest commandment doesn’t apply and you can vote for the man who mocks the disabled, openly disrespects, disdains and tramples actual value while you tell yourself you’re fightin’ fer the kingdumb. If you can sit with rapists, worship a criminal posing president, but sneer at those who want to protect value, then you are on the top of a dung heap whilst claiming great righteous real estate in the One Way. Oh the fantasies so many abide as they ignore the stench of their foundations, as the whole world watches their dumbing down any notion of faith. So, since all I can do is wonder and weep as the people I used to break bread with claim their false truth, the one exceptionalist “truth” we all must embrace or be stalked by Trump trains and MAGA refrains ’cause well, Jesus, since it’s more than I can face without going mute, I’m going to turn this post over to a quote from a woman who has a more measured command of the state of things than I do in this hour and who states critical aspirations and affirmations essential to furthering the actual works of love without stringing too many words together in one sentence after another long wordy sentence.
“Let us denounce authoritarianism, racism, sexism and disregard for science and our common health and safety. Let us defend this beautiful planet. Let us voice that tearing nursing children from the arms of their mothers at the border is not an American value. Let us affirm that caring for one another, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and elderly is not socialism, it is a deeply honorable community and spiritual practice. Let us speak up and affirm that we would not put up with bullying, name calling and abusive behavior in our work or lives or homes—and so we should not allow it such traits and actions to go unchecked in the highest office in our land. Let us be centered in love, but be firm and clear and brave. This is the most important election of my lifetime. This is one of those moments when silence would equal implied agreement and consent—and I do not consent.” Carrie Newcomer
oh, transport my soul
to semi-round smoothness rest,
ocean’s nest of gems.
oh, come the tides to
these shores within; downward seep
flood the ancient keep.
oh, rest me wet, sunned
against earth mother steady
where wholeness resides.
oh, bring balm sandshine,
stunning grandeur blasting stoles.
waves baptizing, sublime.
St. Theresa of Avila
“This is the living vow: to show up with increasing presence for the moment. To make an honest encounter with your longing at every turn. To listen to it, learning which way the energy of your life wants to go. Paradoxically, it is in our emptiness—another way of saying willingness—that we become full. It is in our being fully where we are that we are put in touch with our next becoming. This grows you. You begin to understand that your life belongs to more than yourself alone. It belongs to a momentum which is set in motion towards its destiny through longing.”
Excerpt from “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home” by Toko-pa Turner
Let me not do more than slam, hammer, pound
and send all the contents smashing against the ground,
the wall, glasses, books, whatever in the vicinity of this holy rage.
Let me not grind my teeth endlessly or linger too long
in the fantasy of obliterating the one who trampled innocence.
Call the gatekeepers, please.
Call the standard bearers, too.
Rouse the warriors against the wave of scurrying human cowardice
that reaches rapidly to blank out, redact accountability
and stroke, stroke, stroke the enablers.
Let me not be so done with children posing adulthood
so fury-blind that I alienate them every last one
in the fallout of the brutalization of one actual child.
Open our eyes to the beasts we pursue in the hopes to subdue,
subsume and subjugate, feeding our own inner monsters
while we weep under the light of the moon
wondering why our children have been devoured.
Stop the generational wreckage smash and crash
rolling through the fast lane in the here and now.
For once, end the long game, the one where the children pay
and pay, and pay for the violations of the fathers.
Keep us all sane, keep us all open to being better people
so the ones who’ve paid a price not their own,
can know safety in our presence.
Make our lives, our days, our minds, our hearts
and our actions a refuge from delusion and insanity.
Waken the dead, the walking dead
who thrive more in pretending love
than the doing of care, of forethought, of protection.
Wash over the blistering wounds made,
the whispering haunt and the innocence fade.
Conjure from the cracks a tree more resilient,
refusing that perpetual derision as it rolls downhill,
mocking how precious the sighs and pulse
of our children, our heritage, our hope.
Conjure creation’s cure, a resounding war cry,
calling from the heart of mother and father divine a raging justice,
insisting growth, smashing lies and building newness in the after.