I occupy a sometimes uneasy space as a biologically female and Gender Queer/Non-Binary person. My voice shakes less these days, even when I witness the discomfort of others. It’s come in many forms – not knowing quite what to make of me, fear of offending me, women who feel my existence threatens feminism, and out and out opposition to my existence.
Through everything, I find my voice. I show up. I speak. I relate to others. I resist. I teach. I lead. I love. I am.
So when Sas Petherick invited me to contribute to the collection of voices included in Voices Rising I had a big “Yes!”
I just downloaded my copy. Feeling honored to be included among so many folks that I admire and respect.
The collection is free, a gift of love from all of us.
In his writing on Liberation Psychology, Ignacio Martín-Baró writes, ” . . . commitment, solidarity, hope, courage – all collective virtues only possible when people act in reference to others.”
When the focus is solely on individual trauma and other struggles, people disconnect and become self involved – distracted from the social, economic, political and philosophical underpinnings of the whole that we live in.
Underpinnings that are, more often than not, the very ground that individual trauma and struggle come from.
I was raped twice as a young woman, those acts are connected to our “rape culture,” which in turn connects to patriarchy. The healing itself became traumatic because it isolated me from the truth.
It wasn’t a matter of putting me in a room with other rape survivors, I did that too. All that did was isolate all of us as the victims, and the act of rape got defined as an aberration and not as a very real part of the culture.
How empowering it would have been back then to hear the truth, to learn the tools of resistance, and to work toward not only healing myself, but also to join with others to build the foundations for a new culture.
That’s powerful healing. That’s liberation.
Something else that happens when the focus is only on the individual – other people’s suffering doesn’t register. Folks may be kind and helpful to people they encounter, but they are disconnected from the suffering of marginalized folks and from the conditions that make it possible for marginalization to even exist.
When they do get a glimpse of it, they feel overwhelmed because they have lived in the soup of an artificial reality constructed by white patriarchal culture – a culture that survives exactly because it does not foster using the tools of resistance and solidarity toward meaningful change. Or people pick up the tools of the patriarchy to resist – and as Audre Lorde warned, “the tools of the master will never dismantle the master’s house.”
For a long period in my life, I isolated with my own wounds. I barely knew how to heal myself and when I looked at the plight of others I felt a sense of helplessness and turned away.
It wasn’t until I ran into the writings of women like Audre Lorde and Angela Davis that the spark in me came alive. Their voices helped re-ignite that sense of “commitment, solidarity, hope and courage” that I got an inkling of as a child growing up in the socialist subculture of Argentina. There were many others, among them Ignacio Martín-Baró, that inspired and taught me.
I learned that what seems impossible, can become possibility. And from possibility, it can become the reality of liberation.
I’m working on a group offering that’s part teaching, part coaching, and based in experiential activities. I believe that we need to bring more than our mind in order to shift into a new way of being and doing. We need to bring our whole selves – our mind, our body with all its senses, our emotional ground, our intuition and instinct, our creativity – for meaningful change and for the possibility of liberation.
While that percolates, I’ll be offering 2-hour intensives for groups of 3 or more. Details soon!
Whether spiritual or secular, we all need quiet moments to reflect, find at least the beginning of personal healing, and to find moments of peace, but to hide behind ideals like love in the name of spiritual or secular “goodness” is to strip those kinds of ideals down to pale and sickly sweet sentiments – that isn’t kind or good, it isn’t lofty. It’s just a way to hide from uncomfortable realities, raw feelings. It’s fear, it’s a way not to have to risk anything in the name of what is just.
If you have white privilege (or class privilege, or gender privilege, heterosexual privilege . . . ) you can hide from the harsh realities in the lives of people who aren’t like you. I am hearing white privilege blaring out it’s awful noise. One of those sounds comes in the form of things like “lets remember to hold back our anger and just stand in love and light.” Love is much grander than that.
Kelly Diels wrote about the anger and fierceness in Martin Luther King and Gandhi. They held love and fierceness at the same time. They understood that anger can fuel just action.
I believe anger can be the catalyst to wake up. I believe anger can be necessary and purposeful. I believe anger and love are not mutually exclusive. Our personal spiritual or secular practices serve to embolden us, to support us as we see the injustice in our lives and in the lives of others and take action.
We can all choose to take part in bringing justice to this world. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and, except in the most extreme circumstance, whatever your life looks like you have options personally and publicly. I’m chronically ill and not likely be among those in the streets, but I can participate in the social action committee of our local Unitarian Universalist Church. I can join with others in visiting local Police Precincts and question them about their training of officers and ask what they are doing about the racism in their ranks. When I can’t get out of bed, I can still use my voice as a writer and an artist.
Love doesn’t tell the oppressed how they should grieve, it doesn’t correct their peaceful activism for being “too angry” or “over the top.” Love doesn’t demand that you bury your own anger. Love gets that what is over the top is the injustice, the oppression, the killing, the violence.
Love wants us to know it is a fierce and radical force. A force that won’t be relegated to sentimentality and pious self-righteousness. Love demands more than any other force I’ve ever felt moving through me.
In one of the comments on Kelly’s post I saw this Cornell West quote:
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Tell me, what action can you take for justice, in the name of love?