[Peace Cranes in the Trash; Cambridge, MA, July, 2016]
When I was younger, I believed my activism to be fueled by (righteous) anger. Racism, injustice, violence infuriated me; seething, I did stuff. I showed up, grateful for my rage. My anger kept me going.
Unlike many of my fellow Quakers, I’d grown up in a family where it was okay to be angry. Sadness, however, was stronger discouraged. “Don’t wallow in it,” I was repeatedly scolded when brought low. At an early age I learned how to efficiently acknowledge my sorrow and move on.
Implicit in this childhood training was fear: if you stay in that sadness you will get stuck in it. (For me, the word ‘wallow” conjures mud or some other thick, viscous substance.) Be careful.
Friday night, in a called meeting for worship at Beacon Hill Friends Meeting around the violence and horror of last week, surrounded by like-minded people, I let myself stay in my grief. I felt safe to wallow. And realized—not for the first time— that sadness opens up an unlimited source of guidance and compassion within me. I reconnect with interconnectedness. I pray for victims’ families and friends and loved ones. I stay with, I hold their pain. I pray for my brothers and sisters of color. I pray for our earnest young people who have inherited this broken, far-from-enlightened world. I begin (ain’t there, yet) to consider the perpetrators of violence and hatred with sadness; as fellow wallowers in this broken world, just as trapped, just as stuck, just as dehumanized by oppression and greed and selfishness as their victims.
So, this week, the words of Bayard Rustin are really speaking to me:
Loving your enemy is manifest in putting your arms not around the man but around the social situation, to take power from those who misuse it at which point they can become human too.