“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
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.
“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.
“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
“I love Jesus. I love the Pagan Solstice Christmas pine. I love Mother Earth, I love Goddess Shakti. I love my Buddha-heart. I love freedom from religious authority. I love the perfect consistency of my contradictions. I love luscious berries of fire and mistletoe clustered on the cross of paradox. I love the tree of life, where I am ripening fruit. I love the newborn sun.
And I love what my body says to my soul. ‘Every particle of me is made of Matter, Mater, Mother Dust, each atom a cathedral where pilgrims arrive from the stars to celebrate the miracle of flesh. O my soul, You irradiate the world through me. I am your dance. Let there be no more talk of our difference.’ And so after thousands of years of religious combat, my body and my soul are Christalized in one magnum mysterium.
And where does this mystery occur? In the nameless roadside shrine of my chest, in a flame that never stops burning yet has never been lit until Now. Here I celebrate the birth of God, who is this Breath.” Fred LaMotte
“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha