Wednesday, July 06, 2016
So What Are We To Do?
I'm launching my book on race Saturday. The press release appeared in the daily newspaper last Sunday and the flyer is making the rounds. I put up a Facebook event page for it. Then, when I found out about Alton Sterling this morning, I fired off a letter to the editor. Sterling was killed 45 miles from the little town where I live, so I decided to make Saturday's launch an opportunity to invite White townspeople who want to become part of the solution to show up. I don't know if the editor will print it. It might be seen as somewhat confrontational (a-hem!), which was not my intention. I just thought maybe a few folks might be ready to answer a call to action. Though I have no control over who all might show up...
Regardless, I'm not posting about Alton Sterling's murder because the news is unfolding every two minutes and there are many ways to get it faster. Besides, I'm pissed and depressed and feeling helpless and hopeless. And everybody's being whipped to a lather already on social media anyway, but I do need to write something about what we can do to stop this.
I know this sounds ridiculous. The blood isn't even dry, for goddess' sake. Haven't we done everything except burn it all down -- and the situation is still disastrous? In fact, haven't we already burned stuff down -- and up -- and blown shit up and had shoot outs and killed ourselves and left our statements and left the country? Some of our best and brightest and most beautiful souls wound up dead or buried for decades in dungeons that are worse than death. And life goes on anyway. And our hearts are broken, even if our spirits aren't.
I get the rage, but they have the fire power and a million empty cells. And all we have is desperation. So what can we do to really flip the script?
We need numbers. And we're not going to get a hundred million people -- of any skin tone -- to run into the night with their hair on fire in America. I see the people in the streets in France setting police cars on fire and pushing them into the station house. Just like we watched what happened in eastern Europe and what happened in Egypt and what happened in Brazil and what keeps happening in Mexico and Honduras and all over sub-Saharan Africa. This ain't a national struggle. This is a struggle to the death all right. But it's not going to be won pretending that we can do it one government at a time. This. is. global. And that means we must connect. All oppression is connected.
Am I suggesting we shouldn't be enraged? Oh, no. I'm suggesting that we should use that rage to fuel our commitment to organize, to connect, to prepare ourselves for a new world. And I'm not talking about a world that looks like a gated community where everybody lives like the rich and famous. I'm talking about a new world with new values and new foundational principles. (As Audre Lorde wrote, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house...!" and ideas are tools, indeed.)
We have enough food on the planet for everybody to eat right now, for example, but we don't have enough for everybody to drink Cristal. (Who taught us to think people who drink Cristal are "special" anyway? Alcohol in any form is a drug that was developed to poison the system and undermine the conscious awareness. And it has become the cliff one hell of a lot of human lemmings are leaping from.)
The word "revolution" comes from the same root word as the word "revolve." And it appears that we have spent human history turning on a spit of our own making, roasting our children's bodies over a fire of whatever group has the power at a given moment. But is that the best we can do? Must we dash our hopes for a future on the rocks of some endless and self-destructive socialization? If we are to survive, if we are to overcome the forces of evil on this planet, if we are to create a new and better world, we are going to have to prepare ourselves to live in that world. Once that is done, we will move on, but nothing will be as it was. We must know and embrace that or give up the ghost.
Pretty words, I know, but how do we prepare for a new world when we're trying to figure out how to pay our rent? How do we come to believe another world is possible when the one we're in is killing young men in broad daylight on film right in front of us?
I ran across a poem by Jed Brandt today on Facebook. It read. "Don't give up, people. Practice the miraculous. Beginnings are here." We must practice the miraculous. Practice. Practice. Practice the miraculous until we get it right. Practice when we're too tired. Practice when we aren't feeling it. Practice when we think we can't do it, that nobody could do it, that they won't let us do it. Practice the miraculous until it's the ordinary. The beginnings are in front of us. They are here. We just don't see them.
And what is the miraculous? A world where life is more important than money. A world where children will want to be themselves more than they want to live high on the hog -- because they are celebrated and protected and loved for being themselves. A world where people share because they want to because it feels good. It's miraculous because we must learn this way of life while drowning in an ocean of the old way. We must build the boat while it's in the water. We must practice, practice, practice the miraculous.
We must come to see other humans (no matter what they look like or what languages they speak or how they worship or how they love) as beautiful, as precious, as beings who struggle and are worthy of respect. We have to reject the idea that some don't deserve the space they inhabit. We have to find the connections between us. We have to form a body of humans so vast, so bonded, so filled with life, that an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us and the recoil instantaneous and horrified.