Sunday, March 05, 2017
I had the flu this month, in spite of having had a flu shot. It was miserable, and I was a little bit resentful at my flu shot for not working. But I had so many hours to lie about, listen and read to the unfolding political drama, and contemplate my over-arching question, that in some respects, it was helpful to be sidelined.
I thought a great deal, as I always do, about how far removed I am from the dangers and threats faced by the people who are directly affected right now. Yes, cuts to health care and medicare would surely affect me and people around me. But I am white, I live in a nearly crime-free rural area, I can grow and raise my own food, and I don't face deportation or homelessness.
Nonetheless, I am filled with anxiety and dread because the people of the world and the world itself, that is, the earth itself, are my community.
I am shocked every day when I wake up, to realize that a significant portion of the people I know, or thought I knew, and love or thought I loved, are actually heartless, racist, biased, and cruelly indifferent to the plight of their fellow beings.
Here's why I make such a harsh statement: Because, even if they didn't vote for or support Trump, even if they disapprove of the racist and discriminatory agenda that he has unleashed, they are, it appears, going about their daily lives unperturbed, or, if they are perturbed, it's about some personal inconvenience. My symbol for this is the suburban white woman who is so obsessed with getting her bathtub replaced until she finds a company that can put a liner in and make it like new... it's as if all of her troubles have been washed away! Imagine being a person of color today, or an immigrant, documented or not, and this is how you see most white people.
I'm not suggesting that we spend all day, every day wringing our hands over the travesty that has been racism for centuries, but is now being brought clearly to the surface. But I do think, if we call ourselves Christians, people of faith, people of conscience, or even human beings with hearts, we must, each day, be learning, listening, and witnessing, to our participation in white privilege and white supremacy.
I can hardly believe that Trump and his "Kremlin Klan," as I love to hear Maxine Waters call them, are being permitted to get away with this desecration of our systems of education, environmental protection, energy, health care, and so much more. Nothing is as painful to me as the heartless and brusque way they rolled into office and signed off on the Dakota pipeline, then crowed and bragged about it as a big accomplishment, with nary an acknowledgment that we literally stole this land by virtue of genocide from the native people, and this was one time that they had all come together to ask to be honored.
But as James Baldwin says, in the important documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, we cannot change what we will not face. In Buddhist practice this is known as sustaining the gaze. I believe that our schools must take the lead in educating young people for anti-racism, and go far beyond the niceties of MLK holiday and Black History month, to a more nuanced understanding of the history of racism. They (and churches) have a moral obligation to augment what parents are evidently not doing at home. Children aren't born racist. They have to learn it, and I'm afraid they are learning it from their own parents and relatives.
The thing that heartens and delights me day after day is the courage of those who are taking risks to protest and fight, to organize, call and rally, for others who are marginalized or who may be facing threats of deportation or other discrimination. It seems that apathy and silence has finally come to an end. The immunity to the sickness may not have worked. A virus too hateful, too horrible, came along. So we, the people, had to raise our own defenses, and we've found that we have, collectively, a heart and a will.
In the strangest way imaginable, Trump really has brought us together. To fight for our country. And to stand for those who, even though we acknowledge we have sinned against them, we have not truthfully and without fear acknowledged our own privilege over them, we still finally do care, we do love them, our hearts can be broken open by their suffering and their pain. We will fight for our brothers and sisters of color and of all statuses that render them marginalized. I can feel that this is true.