This is not OK

I don’t write about politics at this blog, but this is not really about politics. It’s too personal to be thrown into that sphere of abstraction and remove. However, this post is inspired by current events, by the US military standing at the border of our country assaulting vulnerable individuals who are asking for help. This post is about my fury and grief and bewilderment.

It’s about my belief that we are actually capable of being good people. That’s worth clarifying: WE are ALL capable of GOOD, those who are in need and those who are in power and those who are caught in the balance between them. This post is about our shared and damaged humanity and my drive to reclaim and heal it.

Let me take a few steps back and explain how I came to be so surprised by the reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being shot at people seeking asylum at the Mexican border. After all, there are reports of violence and injustice every day. But I spend most of my life in a media brown-out. I don’t really want to live with my head in the sand, but I can’t bear the constant images and stories of human inflicted suffering that are so pervasive in our news cycles. Their crushing weight triggers a deep grief that renders me stunned and sorrowful, overwhelmed by emotion and incapable of generating thoughtful productive “response” to such tragedy. So I tune much of it out, knowing that big events will seep through my veil of protection. When that happens, I join the community to mourn with families impacted by violence, hate, starvation and atrocities of war. I mourn what feels like our profound loss of safety and collective compassion. And, I mourn the constant assault on our planet. The pollution of the earth, air, and water that sustain us is both example and exaggeration of the corruption that poisons our human family.

I am accustomed to the heavy sorrow that accompanies a new tragedy. I know that as I sit with my grief, I will cry (a lot) and I will walk and write and simmer, first in silence and then in community. My grief will become softened by my acceptance of it and by time. But it doesn’t go away. It remains within me, humming at low frequency and is re-stimulated by each new event or action that violates my sense of what is “right” in the world.

It is a bit disturbing to realize that my heart’s response to this level of upset is so familiar.

But the response that I had this morning, after listening to NPR reporting from the border, was not familiar in that way. It was full of a rage and fury that is neither familiar nor comfortable. When someone appears on your doorstep, afraid and in need, you welcome them in. Turning them away is unkind. Chasing them away violently is appalling. By the time I got home I was shaking and sweating, tears rolling down my cheeks, and pleas for some common sense spilling from my lips. I was incensed at the violation of human rights, terrified by the trajectory of our country, and even more terrified by the fear that gripped me. The grief that usually follows a report of violence feels like an invitation to nurture, this rage feels like an urgent call to action. But what action?

Yes, our government is a mess and voting will help. I felt absolutely triumphant after voting a few weeks ago. And I feel grateful to be cultivating meaningful relationships that allow me to offer tangible support to individuals and organizations in my community doing good work. If anyone in need appears at my door after walking 10 miles or 10,000 to get there, I know I will invite them in and I will share my dinner and ask them to share their stories. Still, there needs to be more.

Words are a start. I will not be among the millions of individuals who disagree with what is happening but contribute to the injustice and violence by remaining silent. So, I will lend my voice to the dissenting crowd. This is not OK. I could shout from the rooftop, but only the turkeys and deer in the field would hear, so I’ll say it here. This is not OK. I will not stand silently while individuals acting on behalf of the US government commit acts of violence against vulnerable people. This is not OK.

And because I’ve always found it more useful to hear what people do want rather than what they don’t want, I’ll offer a suggestion – for you and for me. I will not wait for a peaceful, united global consciousness to come from somewhere else or someone else. I will live within it now. I need to participate, to help the tide to shift. Out of fear, into acceptance. Out of isolation, into connection. Out of lack, into abundance.

Jack Kornfield offers this advice,  “In these polarized and deeply troubled times, we are called upon to deepen our own practice of steadiness, courage, mindfulness and love. It is at just these times that we must become the steady hearts the society needs, the ones who remember who are, who are unafraid to tell the truth and who do so embodying the human possibility of compassion, understanding and reconciliation.”

I have stopped shaking. My heart is steadying. Let us stand together in fierce love, compassion and courage.

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