Love is Decidedly Not Enough

Each day brings the challenge of meeting despair with determined action. That challenge is compounded by the myriad fronts that call out for redress:  The uptick in hate-based violence. Voter suppression. Cabinet picks. Violent law enforcement. Climate change. Standing Rock.

I could work on that list for hours and I wouldn’t be satisfied. This list is long, immediate, and urgent.  Everything on it is weighted with the threat of lost freedoms, loves and lives.

And then there are other perspectives: That this is not a bad turn. That things needed to change. That this election will answer prayers. Or it will jolt the docile into action.  That love is all we need.

Underneath, humming rage.  Rage driven by hundreds of years of targeting black and brown people with violations to their humanity both insidious and outright. By impending loss of freedoms as basic as with whom we make family.  Rage at homelands destroyed by politics, greed and religion, by misguided colonialism and intervention, by non-intervention.

And the other rage driven by an existential fear, “I will lose my place in the world if you take your place in the world.” That fear drives what my friend, the philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, once named the violent impulse: Just make it go away.

The violent impulse is in all of us.  It’s not limited to grown men surrounding a brown child on a sidewalk and chanting, “Go home!”  It’s a whole gamut of ‘be-gones.’  Be-gone, black man. Be- gone, lesbian. Be-gone, immigrants.  Be-gone, whole religions. Be-gone, conservatives.  Be-gone, liberals.  Be-gone, you-who-disagree-with-me.

The only be-gone I accept is be-gone, violence. I am convinced that violence begins with the tiniest thought that a person or group is unworthy of being considered whole.  Violence seeps out of the mind into name-calling, stereotyping, then into action: harassment, repression, beatings and murder. I am also convinced that violence begets violence. Always. And I do not want to leave the young people in my life with a more violent world.

So, what to do?  What to do as violence rears up in all corners?

It seems to me that each of us must do two things:  First, resist.  Take your place in an unrelenting deluge of “no.” No is a fierce and nonviolent response to injustice.  Non-violent resistance manifests in phone calls, petitions, personal interactions and organized protests or protections. Each of us can find our place in resistance.

Second, look around at the opportunities in your life for non-violent insistence. Non-violent insistence is a deluge of “yes.”  It is the making of things that bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.[1],Sure, it’s in making love, in all the ways that means. But, with apologies to the 60s, love is not all we need. Loving one another is decidedly not enough.

Look around at the opportunities to create against un-creation. Make art if you can.  Make refuge, make solidarity, make organizations, or strengthen the ones you are already in. Make peace with people you can’t imagine making peace with.

While the arc of the moral universe may well bend toward justice, there are always forces that would bend it back, and  faltering vigilance has great cost.  For those who have long known this, the new work is very, very old, and the thought of doing it all again is exhausting.

Others are just learning now that progress is fragile, that injustice takes advantage of any weakness to rise.  It’s a painful lesson.

There are moments to rest, but this is not one of them. Especially not if you’re new to the work.  Welcome to the resistance. Find your place in the deluge of No.  Choose a few ways to insist. Accept discomfort, understand you will do this while still grieving.  Get going.

Here’s what I will do.  I will read and listen carefully, parsing bias, propaganda and untruth with the sharpest mind I can muster.  I’ll spend time every day in the mundane work of resistance:  phone calls and letters.  I will step into solidarity at every opportunity with those who stand to lose the most. I will speak up in the face of hate when I hear it in my day-to-day. I’ll make that a practice, and make a point to learn to do it well.  I will work to strengthen the organizations in which I work, where the mission is already pointed toward justice.  And I will write.

Writing is where I make myself accountable. At best, when I write I illuminate new ways of thinking that support or even inspire change.   I’ve set myself to do that here. If you join me, I’ll be honored.

 

[1] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King used this phrase and ones like it many times in his public life, borrowing from abolitionists preachers like Theodore Parker. For a quick discussion of this rhetorical lineage, see NPR’s Melissa Block’s interview with  History Professor and  Director of the Stanford Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute, Clayborne Carson.

21 comments

  1. Dear Cousin, your words inspire, educate and enlighten me. Thank you for being you and using your gift of writing and sharp mind to give me new perspectives and understanding.

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  2. Good on you,as they say here.

    Thinking about resisting violence…. And how we have to resist ideas too. And, I’ve concluded far too recently….some people ‘s way of thinking or approaching the world are intractable.

    And is violence ever necessary?

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    1. I appreciate finding your comment! Part of English languaging that cripples us, in my experience, is the “noun”ing that is so ubiquitous in our ways of wording the world. If violence were a verb, I might see it as ongoing amoral processes of “being” Earth: everything from thunder storming, cycloning, burning, to walking, digesting, blowing my nose. Scale differences obscure this ongoing violent action. I hear “resistance is futile” in the back of my head. But what does that mean? I like Lucinda’s use of “insistence.” It suggests flow, maybe the way Buckminster Fuller used to talk about the importance of the trim tab.

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      1. Thanks Bethe. I’ver started to understand insistence and resistance as the 2 essential actions of non-violence: obstructing and constructing. I do think we forget about the latter a lot, and the obstruction gets diluted to disagreement, to often with violent rhetoric. I think this time is inviting us to sharpen our understanding of all of this, as well as our practice. LJG

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    2. I agree Nicky, about resisting ideas. And I agree that some are intractable in their attachment to violence. But I think there are far more who, met with compassion, will move to something common enough to make for non-violent relations. Is violence necessary? I think probably yes, but not in the interest of just social change.

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  3. Thanks for starting this blog. In these most unprecedented,difficult times it feels important to be able to stay connected with like minded folks to hep figure out how to move forward and lighten my heavy heart.

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    1. I understand Phyllis. And I’ve been thinking a lot about non-violent rage. It’s a disciplined, strategic application of rage. There are times, in the privacy of our trusted loved ones and colleagues, that unmitigated rage needs room. That’s for a purpose other than change.

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  4. You never cease to amaze me…I am so afraid for the next four years…When I hear all the news of the new President-elect I feel he is working his way to making America a dictatorship…it is so scary! I’m not sure what I can do, but I will learn something new every day and hopefully work in a good way to do my part…thank you for the inspiration.

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