In the midst of the rage and anxiety, despair and turmoil, let’s keep our eyes open to Beauty.
I am really struggling this morning, not sure how I can go about the process of reflecting on gratitude after the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, and how that drives home the awareness that we are indeed watching forces of fascism rise in the United States today. We have a president whose mean-spirited and careless rhetoric has incited and encouraged the alt-right and their friends to feel like this is their time to rise. One headline I read this morning made a point of clarifying that yesterday’s event was not a protest, but a race riot. The people who came out for that rally were bringing hate out into the streets, eagerly anticipating the violence that ensued.
I am hesitant to call these folks white supremacists, though they are indeed so, because I don’t want to take the pressure off the rest of us, who live in and benefit from a white supremacist system that has gone too long unquestioned. Much as I repudiate the ideology, I experience the benefits of living in a white supremacist society. Yesterday’s race riot in Charlottesville was not just a response to our president’s bigotry, but an outgrowth of a white supremacist system gone unchallenged. This movement has been allowed and encouraged to fester and grow.
What do we do, now, in the face of this hatred?
I will express my shock and rage without letting them paralyze me.
I will repudiate the hate while I recognize that I, too, experience hatred in my heart.
I will commit intentional acts of love and solidarity with those who are marginalized and directly threatened by these people.
I will keep naming the truths and realities that the president and his followers are trying to twist into lies.
I will listen to music and look at art and read poetry (maybe make some of my own) and remind myself of what is good and beautiful, and how the arts challenge the impulse to destruction.
I will love. I will keep trying to love.
And that is hard. How can I love the torch-wielding rage-filled mob that tries to intimidate and cow people who stand up for peace? How can I love the Nazi-slogan-chanting gun-slinging marchers eager for blood to feed their rage? Holy Mystery, help me to walk in the pathway of love, to speak truth to the lies, to set the boundaries firmly and keep the doors wide open.
I titled this post “The Difference Between Rage and Hatred” because someone on FB this morning said that my words about the president and his supporters were full of hate. I challenge that perception. We MUST speak out. We MUST name the bigotry. This is not about hatred, but about truth.
Today, let each of us commit to one act of defiant love and kindness, one word of revolutionary truth, one prayer for peace grounded in hands-and-feet action.
“Good luck with figuring it out. It unfolds, and you experience it, and it is so horrible and endless that you could almost give up a dozen times. But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on. Through the most ordinary things, books, for instance, or a postcard, or eyes or hands, life is transformed. Hands that for decades reached out to hurt us, to drag us down, to control us, or to wave us away in dismissal now reach for us differently. They become instruments of tenderness, buoyancy, exploration, hope.”
― Anne Lamott, from: “Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers”
“We do not have to live as though we are alone.” ―Wendell Berry
“We are made and set here to give voice to our astonishments.” ―Annie Dillard
“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.” ―Fatema Mernissi
by Parker J. Palmer
The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.
I have plowed my life this way
Turned over a whole history
Looking for the roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.
Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—
The farmer plows to plant a greening season.
“Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging.” ―Toko-pa Turner
“The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen. How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Gertrude Stein defined love as “the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.”
1. The forces of love that stand against the hatred. May we be strong enough to prevail.
2. Hard as it is, reminders to look into my own soul and see how my own rage and pettiness can harden into something twisted and wrong.
3. Thinking more about my sister-in-law’s ordination: The time for women leading the church has arrived. Not only was she a woman being ordained, but she was ordained by a woman, the conference pastor, leading a whole branch of the Mennonite Church. This is the time of reparations and new balance.
4. This morning, when my heart was doing its little panic in response to the news of Charlottesville, I opened my FB page to a message from a former student of mine, a fine young man who is crafting incredible music, finding ways to share his artistic vision. He shared a file of a string quartet piece that he composed. It was healing music, and the steel bands that were tightening around my heart began to release their hold. And I am proud, so proud of him.
5. Cats in the house. I know I am a little obsessed right now, but it’s such a joy to have a furperson walk through the house. I sort of think they got a little mixed up at the Humane League and gave us a cat and a dog instead of two cats. This morning as I was quietly typing, Thor came up and laid one of those little plastic armbands in my lap. I tossed it, and he went tearing after it, bringing it back to lay it at my feet. I have been almost unable to do any work this morning because of the ongoing game of fetch. I had to go wake Joss up so he could take over the game, and I could get some writing done.
May we walk in Beauty!