Friday, January 23, 2009

Strong at the Broken Places

A response to Maithri and all the gentle souls who gather in the spirit of peace at the Soaring Impulse

"The yellow star? Oh well, what of it? You don't die of it ..."

(Poor Father! Of what then did you die?)

from Night, Elie Weisel

Elie Wiesel, in his darkest days and deepest despair, never gave up. In fact, he got so angry at god that he argued daily with him. This is why he is a survivor. Not because he escaped the death camps with his life, but because he cared enough to become a witness. To tell his own story in the form of a cautionary tale and to stand up every waking day for peace and human dignity in this most imperfect of worlds.

Strong at the broken places.

Elie Weisel. A living testament not only to the human capacity for endurance but to the alchemy of the human spirit.

For pain, if not translated, becomes its own religion.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.” Elie Weisel.

If someone in a room tells a joke at the expense of another and we laugh or even watch those around us laugh while remaining silent, who in fact is doing the telling?? If we choose expedience over truth who is doing the telling? If we choose to sacrifice a designated person or group for temporary relief from our own existential unrest, who in fact is doing the telling?

For this is how lies are spread and bigotry takes hold. One can only commit acts of violence by dehumanizing, objectifying, labeling an individual or group as “other”. In the process, the oppressed are inevitably damaged and often destroyed. But it is the oppressor who without doubt loses her/his humanity.

If we are unwilling to look at our own brokenness, if we don’t find a way to infuse our personal pain with a larger meaning, suffering soon becomes a way of life. Reflected in the chaotic world of a child trapped in the cycle of abuse or in the epic annihilation of a people caught in the crossfire.

The state of Israel, which shelters survivors of one of the worst genocidal campaigns in modern history is today one of the most virulent perpetrators of racism. Just as some victims of abuse become violators, Israel has migrated through the looking glass, from colonized to colonizer, perpetuating a never ending cycle of violence.

The conflict in Kosovo had its roots in eugenics and racial nationalism.

The protracted massacre in Rwanda was fanned by the polarizing impact of colonialism which mythologized racial stereotypes to its advantage.

And Congo. I have no words.

Racism is complex and deep. I'm glad we are talking about it.

Strong in the broken places.

We are each one of us survivors. What do we make of our salvaged lives? That is all that matters.

Unless we realize the gift, we become strangers in a strange land, sleepwalking through our days, merely keeping time.

Strong in the broken places.

I have the deepest respect for Barack Obama – for his intelligence, his grace, his call to service and for his extraordinary ability to motivate millions to reimagine and repair this tired and tattered nation.

However, I am disturbed when he fails to articulate a clear and identifiable vision. During his candidacy, Obama spoke so eloquently of hope, but did not say hope for what or how. De facto, he became a tabla raza on which his supporters projected their hopes and their dreams. I am sorry that Obama did not reveal more of himself. And I regret that the constituency didn’t ask the questions that begged to be asked. It is because of this failure to have an authentic conversation that so many today feel disappointed, forgotten, betrayed.

Obama is a man who as a boy straddled multiple worlds and became fluent in the vernacular of all of them. In order to remain safe, he learned to be cautious. In order to be valued, he learned how not to offend. These skills finely honed make for deft maneuvering in the political sphere, and a facility to negotiate and inspire. Unfortunately this cross border training also results in ambiguity in human relations .

One cannot be all things to all people. And there comes a time when we must take a stand for love and inclusion, which of necessity means taking a stand against hatred and bigotry.

I fear that we have become complacent about our democracy. We go to the polls every four years, perform our civic duty and retire to the numbing comfort of television (fill in your narcotic of choice). We count on our leaders to save us. We have forgotten what we the people constitute the source of political authority. It is up to us to reinvigorate our commitment to community and articulate our vision to our elected representatives. Like every other living thing a democracy requires daily tending.

The word postracial has been widely used to describe this presidency, this moment in time. In my opinion, it is wishful thinking to believe that we can expunge the stain of slavery simply by electing a man born to a Kenyan father. That we as a nation have taken this step is a measure of the collective progress we have made. We have opened a door to a dialogue about the deep wounds we have sustained. We have arrived at a new threshold to potential healing.

Strong at the broken places

James Cone, an African American scholar, professor and author of The Cross and the Lynching Tree, insists that in order to come to some kind of reconciliation on race, we must break the silence. We are inextricably bound to each other in a matrix of violence unless and until we can talk about those things that are “deep and ugly”. He goes on to say, “America needs to understand itself as not being innocent.” He sees hope in exorcising our shared demons and becoming “beloved community” only when we speak out against hate and oppression.

It is delusional to even imagine that we are living in a post racial world when our GBLT sisters and brothers are denied a seat at the table.

Rick Warren is a person who hides behind “faith” to preach fear, exploits his pulpit to sow seeds of division. It was unfitting for this man to give the invocation at the inauguration of such an auspicious journey.

In contrast, what a delight it was to partake of the words of compassion, tenderness and playfulness so deeply rooted in the black American experience delivered by Reverend Lowery. He didn’t deny the common struggle because he has lived it. Reverend Lowery was the longtime president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he co-founded in 1957, with the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth. His uplifting message was truly the highlight of the day for me.

“God of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray…

Restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these…

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.”

Strong in the broken places.

Reverend Lowery is a strong advocate for equality for the GBLT community. He speaks unwaveringly in support of the disenfranchised.

"Remembering the voices who have told us to wait on justice, we dispute the notion that issues of race and nationality are so overwhelming that to fight for another issue of injustice is to water down the movement, For the storehouses of God's justice do not run low, and we must recognize the interconnectedness of all forms of oppression if we are ever to achieve the kingdom. The realm of God is at hand."

Many people did not hear what the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson said as he delivered the invocation at Monday’s We Are One inauguration concert.

HBO's broadcast started after the invocation and Robinson's microphone wasn't turned on.

Strong at the broken places

Robinson began, with this:

"O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears –- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS."

He asked God to:

"Bless us with patience and understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah."

And, he prayed:

"Please, God, keep him (Obama) safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."

I’ve printed these excerpts from Rev Robinson’s offering in the interest of giving a voice to the silenced.

It is in the habit of maintaining the illusion of separation that our natural impulse for connection is lost.

Ubuntu in Zulu means a person is a person through other persons. An attempt at an expanded definition has been made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

This post was inspired by Maithri at The Soaring Impulse and by Magnetbabe at Field Lines. I have tried in vain to stick to blog lite. But these issues are too critical and our time too precious. It is the spirit of love and unity that I write these words today. I hope that they are helpful in advancing our dialogue.

Ferry me across the water,
Do, boatman, do.
If you've a penny in your purse
I'll ferry you.

Christina Rossetti


Linda said...

Dear Gabrielle,

Your words, your thoughts are thought-filled and thought provoking. I will sit with them...let them germinate and learn from your wisdom.

Thank you for braving the lanes of cyberspace to share the sage understandings of your soul.

It is a blessing to be part of this community of souls...a blessing to read Maithri's poetry and the hopes and dreams of so many other like spirits.

May you be surrounded by Love and Peace, Linda

Maithri said...

My Beloved friend,

I think this is quite simply one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read...

I have always loved the idea of ubuntu... "I am because we are..."

It makes so much sense....that what happens to our brothers and sisters affects us... because we are all a part of the whole...

For the last fourteen hours, I was the only covering doctor for a hospital of 300 patients

At one point in my breathless day i sat down and read these words and my eyes filled with tears.

How wonderful it is to know that i walk under the same sky as you beloved friend,

May you rest in the bosom of love,

May the universe sing your name to the wild skies...

May you be carried on the fervent breath of hope
into the

My deepest love,



the walking man said...

At some point the oppressed have to move away from the base dialog of "you did this to me and I am hurt."

It is not to say that I didn't do it to them and they are not hurt by my actions but that is but the milk of the learning changing process.

I will live among, as a minority other cultures until I learn the value of that culture then I will have something to extol.

So we have elected a mixed race man to a prominent position. We were hesitant over his ethnicity, yet voted what we felt was best for our pocketbooks. Yet there is hope that simply in living as he will that he communicates a better, more succinct portrait of Black culture to the other cultures of America.

There is more than hip hop and bling. We need to not discuss that there are a disproportionate number of Black males in prison, which is where the discussion usually stops. We need to find out why and if it institutional then we need to ferret out the why and change it without allowing the pendulum to swing in the direction of institutional retribution.

Equality in all things is not how much one can acquire but rather in how many opportunities for success are there and access to those opportunities. Access is denied someone if it is bounded by skin color or sexual preference. By using those factors as criteria we are not making opportunity equal.

If we were to start nationwide, in K-12 education to treat all students to the same tools without regard to area or taxes, the same information then the child will grow with ability to have access to opportunity commensurate with their ability.

So I say the election of Obama is not the door to a post racial discussion but rather the possibility that the discussion will move from the history of this nation into the present and that is hope enough for me.

Very thoughtful and thought provoking post Gabrielle.

Christopher said...

I’m not sure whether the broadcast omission of Gene Robinson’s appearance at Obama’s inauguration was ideologically or economically (audience share) driven. However, my fear is the former, for its implications are so very dark. Regardless, it reached all the way over to NPR, which in all their progressive zeal failed to put this on the airwaves as well. There was a time when Mr. Robinson could not have attained his professional position while being transparent in his private life. It is high water mark of our culture that this is no longer the case. But, to limit his audience to those in attendance and those savvy enough to scour the internet for taped replays marginalizes this man and greatly diminishes his impact on our culture. We have a long, long way to go and the 24 hour news cycle did very little to advance equality and give voice to the masses that day.
Gabrielle, this was a rich post and my response focused on a small portion of it. Thank you for speaking your heart and starting this dialog.

Dr.John said...

There is no dialogue here. You present truths as you see them.
They are not open to argument.
They are phrased in such a way that anyone who would disagree with you is evil
In so doing you end up demonizing those who don't think like you.

magnetbabe said...

I agree that President Obama was elected partly because of his tendency to be a chameleon and a projection screen for the hopes and dreams of so many Americans. With that comes the inevitable disappointment that he cannot be all things at once. And he cannot fix our country overnight. But perhaps the most hurt by the light of day of his presidency will be the progressives because they too have used him as a screen for their causes (which I freely admit to being my own causes too). We think that because he has a "D" by his name he must be for advancing our causes. You yourself have always known Obama is not a liberal, he is a centrist and above all a pragmatist. I have always argued that this country needs pragmatism right now over the virile partisanship that would follow a truly progressive president. Obama rode the wave of a grassroots movement to elect someone who listens to the fears and hopes of the common American, but at the end of the day he is a politician and only politicians are actually elected president. We all, each and every one of us, have a responsibility to raise our voices against injustice, inequality even (especially!) if it is at the hands of our brand new president in defense of the LGBT community. As a liberal I welcome the role of government to help us pick ourlseves up and dust ourselves off to create new jobs and fund research into new energy sources. But the pilgrim in me thinks as Gandhi once said, "be the change you want to see". Don't count on a people-pleaser like Obama to do our emotional heavy lifting. The world still needs our voices to speak the truth, even when we feel like we are shouting into the abyss.

Christopher said...

I believe people should not only be aware of their actions, but be challenged over their inaction, tacit agreements and sins of omission that affect others in a hurtful manner. In her post, Gabrielle voices her opinion on the behavior of some well known public figures, some of whom exemplify tolerance while others only straddle it. She also asks us to be introspective of ourselves and allows us an opportunity to measure our personal behavior against some of the examples given.
What’s on your mind, Dr. John? I don’t see anyone demonized or labeled evil, only held accountable.

Maithri said...

I come back to this post today my friend... to rest in your passion and compassion...

I read only kindness, only celebration, only love in your words,

It moves me more than i can say


Anonymous said...

秋葉原 メイド
ペット火葬 つくば
つくば ペット火葬
つくば ペット霊園
つくば ペット葬儀
soul source production
ベトナム シーフード
高収入 アルバイト
高収入 アルバイト
アパレル 求人
アパレル 派遣
人妻 出会い
性感マッサージ 名古屋
M性感 名古屋