Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Transformation to Equality and Community

"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment-or unlearning-a fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts." 
 Marianne Williamson
How can we be truly equal if we are all so different in various ways: physically, emotionally, educationally; a myriad of races, cultures, genders, religions, spirituality, and more?
How can we be at one with other people with whom we may share some similarities but also find that some of our differences seem to set us widely apart?  If we are all really one, then to what level do we need to rise to find true human equality and sharing? To see each other in community and not only as separate individuals, fearful of each other?
I am quite positive that our history of patriarchy is partly responsible for so much violence in the world.  Maybe if women were in charge, the world would be more peaceful, much safer.  But, we may be moving into an era of not the opposite to patriarchy, meaning matriarchy, but into an era of androgyny, where both masculine and feminine energies intertwine along with all sorts of other energies that may not be defined in such black and white terms. No longer in binary opposition.
Perhaps one way to say this is that we are transforming from a dichotomous and dualistic culture to one that allows for more amalgamated, cooperative and collaborative ways of thinking, feeling and acting.  A culture where no one type (or any sort) is in charge but where we all play notes on the scale sometimes creating dissonance and at other times, lovely harmonies.
Giving up duality and rigid concreteness regarding our perceived informal rules of living and behaving is not an easy task for those of us who have become fully acculturated over time to the ways things are. We see young people thinking and acting very differently than we older people, and the generations often have trouble communicating.  But, what a blessing it can be.  How lovely to see a young person with a radical, new idea that we have never even considered!  Sometimes that freaks us out and sometimes we rejoice. 
We have been defined by gender roles since we were babies.  We have attended educational systems that give grades for what is perceived to be good, average or bad performance. We work at jobs that give us salaries from large to small and everything in between. Our self esteem is often measured by such criteria or by how we look, how much we weigh, how able bodied we are, how privileged we are without having done much of anything to receive that privilege.  How impoverished we may be.  Most of what we see and hear on TV and in most mediums is hierarchical, where one at the top wins, and several or most at the bottom lose. 
The American Dream is all about winning enough for ourselves and our families while many tend to suffer because there seems to be not enough to go around.  We are a culture whose values are too often based on deprivation and despondency about that perception.  Many feel hopeless and helpless when it comes to being able to change their circumstances in life, whether they are focusing on career success, love relationships, or on money and stuff.  And, maybe there really is enough to share if only we would shift our thinking and our actions a tiny bit.
When will we start acting as a community instead of as a solar system of one, myself first and foremost?  When will the common good be as good as the individual good, even though we see reality in unique and often conflictual ways?
The blending of races, religions, and cultures can all simmer together in a tasty gumbo, a stew of delight. But, we also bump up against each other in that bubbling mixture taking on each others’ tastes, textures and smells, not always liking the outcome.  Too hot, too spicy, or too bland and diffuse, not enough separate ingredients seen, or tasted? The vegetables no longer crisp but soggy, mushy. And, if you are so sweet, does that mean I must be sour?
Oh, the excitement of transformation when we fear the unknown, hoping that things can’t possibly get worse, when we know darn well that they can.  Why change anyway?  Better to stay with the old familiar chord, that same ole refrain that we have all memorized, deeply held in our bones.  Let's invite each of us to be more creative and play with all the notes of the scale, not focusing on only 2 or 3, which keeps us limited and trapped somehow.  Or, safe.  At least we know those notes very well and we can rely on them.
This is the way we do it.  We start by talking about the change, writing about it, singing about it and dancing to it, imagining the huge number of combinations that we can dream up, knowing that we have this life to live, these people to live with, and we hope not to have to kill off too many more people before we decide that we can truly accept and/or care about those who are not like us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Violence is Violence

Whether a hate crime at a gay nightclub, or a legislature creating restrictive policies about women’s reproductive health, violence is violence.  Whether sexual assault or police brutality against brown and black men and boys, violence is violence.

Combine weapons allowing shooters to mow down scores of people in minutes with hate, fear and anxiety along with alcohol and drug use (or not), and we have a perfect storm.  Shooters playing judge and jury against people they do not like, with whom they disagree, or because of some ideological passion.

Violence without physical assault is also pernicious and destructive, like taking rights away from people.  We live in Tennessee, a state that is known for some ignorant bills and laws. Proposed and actual legislation wrenches away from people the ability to make thoughtful decisions about healthcare, privacy, and bathrooms.

Violence occurs while locking up people who can’t afford to pay for traffic and other violations accruing large penalties and interest charges, returning us to the days of paupers’ jails and prisons.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy… In fact, violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”