A deeply personal and spiritual reflection on America and our healing in this moment in the world
Now is the time for radical revolutionary healing. On May 30, I wrote a blog post as a letter to America, a historical reflection on her complicated relationship with African-Americans.
At the end of that post and letter to America, I ask a question:
“And so, My Dear America, my country, my home:What kind of revolutionary will we be in today’s world, in today’s crisis, in today’s pain, in today’s hurt? What kind of radical healing revolutionary will we be?
“What kind of radical healing revolutionary will we be?”
That was in May. And now, almost 6 months later, I am working to answer this question for myself. Why radical healing revolutionary?
Because the world is need of revolutionary radical healing.
We have experienced large scale trauma and wounding. Wounding that goes deep, not just skimming the surface. Wounds that cannot be covered by a bandage, with a little Neosporin or aloe vera, the real salve my mama always told me to use. No, these wounds are too deep. These wounds with sinews snapped, and bones broken require multiple surgeries and reconstruction, reconstruction paralleling the reconstruction after the civil war, a radical reconstruction, not just plastic surgery. Replacement surgery, physical therapy, programming new ways of thinking, being, existing, living, and dying in the world, creating new “wiring,” synapsis, in our bodies, on the earth, in our relationships.
The trauma – unparalled as it feels, is not unparalled. It is just more visible and prominent for all to see. Trauma has always been around, the trauma of multiple manifestations of pandemics related to justice and equity: health care, economic, environmental, legal and law enforcement, and political.
The current health pandemic has bubbled up the health care crisis from the bellies of the underworld to center stage. There has always been disproportionate access to medical care for the poor and the colored ones, with skin tones, and accents that suggest a “difference.”
The economic pandemic caused the hidden poverty — often banished to invisible corners — to suddenly stand up, rising up to be seen, with jobs disappearing from the most fragile to those presumed most secure. It was only when those presumed most secure were no longer secure that the world took notice. No one has really cared about those who are most fragile, other than if they were “essential” in the crisis at minimum wage and front line.
The criminal justice pandemic with its mass incarceration of people of color through the prison industrial complex in which more money is invested in small town prisons than education, was secreted away behind bars, until the violence occurred in front of bars and cars, on the streets and in front of videos for the world to see. But of course, Black men and women have been murdered since time immemorial.
And, then the political pandemic. The under the table efforts to disenfranchise, silence the ballot, implement oppressive voter registration requirements, suddenly on center stage, though injustice related to the ballot has always defined America as she has spitefully doled out the right to vote to her favorite sons.
The environment, on fire, across the world, flooded with waters and hurricanes, warmed when it should be cool, cool when it should be warm, has been telling those who would listen to pay attention, yet we did not, until, maybe now.
So, those of us who exist in, on, and through multiple levels of awareness, have continuously experienced these pandemics and their associated trauma. But, if, in the past, we chose to be oblivious to what has always been part of the world, but now we suddenly have had our eyes opened as miraculously as Jesus healed the blind man, then we must act upon this awareness and knowledge. When our eyes are opened, we see differently; we hear differently; we feel differently. We live differently.
Trauma affects everyone differently. I believe we are all impacted and affected by the trauma. I know I have been. Because we have become so adept in surviving and coping, we often suppress our sorrow, until it bubbles up uncontrolled. Yet our coping skills and survival skills are both a blessing and a curse. Because they allow us to survive, we assume that we are fine, and we fail to realize that the trauma has become embedded in our DNA, into our very bloodlines, to be transmitted to future generations. And, when it bubbles up, we ourselves, are sometimes shocked.
But, it is more. It is more than a moment of sorrow and tears. What I recently recognized, a revelation actually, is that I have been living like an abused woman. As a woman (like many women that I know) who has been abused (physically, sexually, spiritually, and emotionally), I should have recognized the abusive relationship sooner.
I was in a “relationship” with an abuser — a bully, a despot, a force that had the power to influence my emotions at the core of my being; a force that could force me to alter my way of engaging in the world; a force whose simple child-like statements or executive orders could create immediate chaos. Each and any statement – cruel, harsh, definitive, with a meanness all its own, at any given time, could spin my world upside down. Wondering whether a war was going to start; wondering if international travel would cease; if citizens would be seized; if green cards or citizenship even mattered; if passports were going to be required identification to be carried around at all times; if diversity training had to stop; if children of immigrants could ever be united with their parents. It was a fear and trauma I held within — a holding of my breath constantly. A fear, an uncertainty, an apprehension, a confusion about the reason and purpose for the stoking of hate, of greed, of denigration, of humiliation.
Though “the force” was embodied in a human being, the force represented and symbolized the country – America: a country that has been in an abusive relationship, since its founding, with African-Americans and women. It’s odd to think that I have been in an abusive relationship with my country.
In a webinar with Virginia Tech community in reflecting after the election on Wednesday,
we were asked what is at stake with this election. And I shared what I thought was at stake. I didn’t call it radical revolutionary healing, then, but now, upon reflection, I was describing the process for beginning this work of radical revolutionary healing. I shared:
“This morning I read an amazing speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was called, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”
Listen to King’s sermon below:
In referencing that speech, I said,
“Written in 1968, the themes and issues resonate today. What is at stake for us is remaining awake, conscious, engaged. What is also at stake is the soul of America. I don’t say that to be dramatic or melodramatic. But the soul of America is always being tested. What do we stand for? What values are defining? We have always existed as a country in a tension of righteousness and unrighteousness; justice and injustice; good and evil.
In preparation for this conversation today, I reread the Declaration of Independence: a document written for the fragile colonies to declare their independence from England. In that document it declares some self-evident truths, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Yet, this was during a time when black men and women were enslaved, and native Americans had been removed from their land and their opportunity to enjoy life, liberty, and pursue happiness was eliminated, and when women were largely invisible.
Yet, the document then references the Right of the People to institute a new Government, that “shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.” So, America is defined in many ways by a focus on safety, the right to pursue happiness, to enjoy liberty, and to have a life worth living.
So, for me what is at stake are these values that form the core and soul of America and what America stands for as a nation. It stands for an unwavering commitment to particular rights, that have always been dished out unevenly and inequitably based on our identities and the salience and visibility of those identities.”
For me, the question is are these core values going to continue to be held and reserved for some, or are they going to be available to those the Statute of Liberty refers to as the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” That is what is at stake for me. I want the tired, poor huddled masses to breathe free and to be able to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their identity. This right goes to the core of what I think it means to be American. It is liberty and justice for all. I want the all. That is what is at stake: the all and the opportunity is to remain awake and engaged, without despair, with hope, to continue to work for the all.“
That requires revolutionary radical healing.
How do we get to “the all?”
When we are in an abusive relationship, we are encouraged to acknowledge it and then to take steps to remove ourselves from that relationship. It is painful having to acknowledge what we wanted to ignore. Seeing what we were blind to; hearing what we were silent to; feeling what we did not want to feel. Acknowledging the unacknowledged. Acknowledging complacency and complicities. Once we acknowledge the trauma, we can start to heal. We often need guides to help us on our healing journeys.
And, so, healing, especially as part of radical revolutionary healing, is often led by unique and transformational leaders. This work of healing, of social justice change, is often started by a few, often ordinary individuals who becane extraordinary – individuals like JohnLewis or Stacy Abrams.
Unfortunately and ironically, this social justice work often has been the burden of the dispossessed, shouldered as a cross upon the most disenfranchised and marginalized communities. Every movement starts with a few: a few who cannot allow the moment to continue as is. A few who have within a certain spirit to engage, to go into the fire, and to be willing to be burned, if necessary. That spirit is what changes the world. A single persistent sacrificial commitment. Not everyone has that.
But I believe that much trauma is inflicted by ignorance and hate that are the result of non-engagement, inadequate and inappropriate education, siloed and segregated experiences. How do we change that?
As a radical healing revolutionary.
When we were all sent into timeout in March, I wrote a post called “An Alternative Curriculum: A Revised Syllabus.”
We have to begin to think of an alternative curriculum for our lives. In that post I asked:
“What is an alternative curriculum? It could be, perhaps a curriculum about energy and how it manifests differently in the world. Not a physics class, per se, but a spirit class. A class about the spiritual energy in the world and its power. The energy of emotions and how they work. The energy of love, sacrifice, and kindness contrasted against the energy of greed, hate, and selfishness. We could talk about the energy of the forest and the air and of breath and flowers. We could talk about life-giving energy of birth and renewal. We could talk about seasons and times of change; of leaves changing the fall, dying in the winter, and then being born again in the spring and dancing in the summer. We could teach about how caterpillars have to become silent to shift and transform to butterflies. We — most of us — would have to teach ourselves, first, to teach others. We — most of us — became very comfortable — rushing, running, texting, emailing, technologing, dropping kids off here and there, exhausted, without a sense of purpose or meaning. We, the teachers, cannot teach what we do not know. Perhaps it is we, not the children, that need a new syllabus for our lives.
“We could talk about how to get along with people who are very different than us, even in our own family. We could talk about our pain in our families and our joys. We could actually look our family members in the eye and say I love you, even if you are …….. We could call our friends that we were always too busy to check on and actually check in on them. We could teach our children that political parties, donkeys and elephants—don’t really matter, that there are core values that we should always vote for and they never change. Core values of love, kindness, generosity of spirit, gentleness, loyalty, self-control, forbearance.“
“We could teach about how to hear…the whisper of the wind; the tears of pain and sorrow; the subtlety of oppression; the touch of love; the gentleness of a smile. Perhaps we could teach about how to listen, how to breath, how to hear in the humility and humbleness of humanity.”
I can only hope, that now, we have an opportunity for revolutionary healing, our of souls not only as a country, but in the world.
This healing can start with the advice from María Sabina, Mexican healer and poet:
“Heal yourself with the light of the sun and the rays of the moon. With the sound of the river and the waterfall. With the swaying of the sea and the fluttering of birds. Heal yourself with mint, neem, and eucalyptus. Sweeten with lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. Hug yourself with the cocoa bean and a hint of cinnamon. Put love in tea instead of sugar and drink it looking at the stars. Heal yourself with the kisses that the wind gives you and the hugs of the rain. Stand strong with your bare feet on the ground and with everything that comes from it. Be smarter every day by listening to your intuition, looking at the world with your forehead. Jump, dance, sing, so that you live happier. Heal yourself, with beautiful love, and always remember … you are the medicine. “
As the medicine, I am committed to the work I have just started, on that alternative curriculum. Menah’s Matinee – Episode 1: Bringing joy to the world.
And I continue to think about America, and I wish for her to be beautiful…for “the all,” including the tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
And, as Vice President Elect-Kamala Harris said, as we become radical healing revolutionaries, “Dream with ambition, lead with conviction.”