In the Hall of Mirrors

I keep seeing the faces of that couple standing in iconic pantomime on their lawn with their guns. He has the white-man deadpan I’m-in-control thing going on on his face. Don’t tread on me, or on my precious grass. Don’t let the Black people come too close to my massive white palazzo.

Her face is a lot harder to interpret. Is it anger? Is it fear? Her mouth has the petulant cast I have seen on children who are trying to convince you of their fierceness. She seems to be play-acting, her hand on the trigger of her little chrome-plated pistol, her eyes darting around. Is she dangerous? Or comical? Or pathetic? Or tragically sad? Why am I so obsessed with figuring her out?

I think it’s because she is a caricature of a caricature of something that is also me. Her angry/pathetic/frightened stance there on her lawn is the ultimate caricature of the Karen–the entitled white woman who uses her social power and connections to white patriarchal power to raise her own personal power. She’s the semi-comic (and terribly dangerous) end result of the remora of white female attachment to the shark of white male power, drawing a sense of strength and protection from her connection to the perceived most-powerful agent in room. She calls the police. She calls the manager. She notifies security. She feels unsafe. She feels ridiculed. She feels powerless. So she pulls the strings of white patriarchy to increase her own sense of empowerment.

In Ms. McCloskey’s case, that shark was pretty indiscriminate, pointing his machine gun at her on his way to aim at the protesters he claimed were about to burn down his home and happiness. That’s a whole other issue to unpack–the Karens are really only marginally more safe than the masses they are so desperate to separate themselves from, the black and brown people they would disempower in order to increase their own social standing. The shark has its own agenda at all times and no one is safe if his power is threatened (as it is in these times of change and transformation).

I like to deny that I have any Karen in me. I don’t remember a time when #smashtheatriarchy hasn’t been my rallying cry. I want to completely destroy the power of the patriarchy–in religion, in politics, in economic systems, in governance, in relationships. I think that is necessary in order to create a just future. Still, I cannot deny that my life has been privileged by the threads that connect me to white patriarchal systems. And those systems try to demand allegiance from those who benefit at any point up and down the power structure. I may not be explicitly accepting those connections or “calling the manager,” but I benefit in myriad implicit ways simply from my perceived connections to the shark.

My work is to keep finding those threads and disconnecting them, cutting them away so they hold no power over me and my sense of belongingness and wellbeing in the world, to find ways to connect whatever threads of power are bequeathed to me by my race and culture and education to those who were bequeathed fewer of those threads but who deserve them as vitally and as certainly as I.

It’s ugly. To call myself one of them. To see that petulant set of the lips, that situating herself in the context of the patriarch’s emblems of violent maintenance of power, and say that there’s something of me in there too, in the pathetic, comic, tragic, furious face of a white woman grasping for power. Knowing that in the system she fights for, she too is expendable, that the only way she survives in the patriarchal system is to play their pantomime along with them, to do their dance.

No, of course I am not her. But yes, I am her, in some strange and twisted distant reflection. She is a caricature of a caricature of a caricature. . .that somewhere weaves very close in the tapestry to me. If I am to participate in this movement for justice for all people, for true equality, for the destruction of the white patriarchy, I need to recognize that connection and learn to face her in the hall of mirrors.

My wise and thoughtful friend Chris of Soulence has written a really powerful piece on doing this work of untangling these threads through unconditional love and doing deep inner work. She offers a grounding chakra meditation. You can find that here.


Gratitude List:
1. Working at Radiance again. It’s wonderful to spend time with Sarah and Laura, to be out in the world, to shape the sweet river grass baskets from Ghana and feel a sense of connection to the women who made these spherical containers. When I got home, I walked into the room with Josiah, and he said, “Mmmmm. You smell like Radiance again.”
2. A day ahead to sew and poem and tidy and create and cook.
3. Cucumbers are in season. I think my lunches for the next couple weeks will be cucumbers and cheese.
4. Tomorrow, time with beloveds.
5. I’m feeling a little fired up to begin designing my courses for the fall. I’m glad to get that energy now instead of on August 15.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Keep strenuously toiling along this path,
do not rest until the last breath;
for that last breath may yet bring the blessings
from the Knower of all things.”
—Rumi


“A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?” ―Oscar A. Romero


“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.” ―Terence McKenna


“Nature is alive and talking to us. This is not a metaphor.” ―Terence McKenna


“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”
—Raymond Carver


“Her imagination was by habit ridiculously active; when the door was not open, it jumped out the window.” ―Henry James


Orientation
by Maya Stein

Just east of certainty. A little south of courage. A hair’s
width from ease. Clicks away from ready. A turn
or two from acceptance. A shuffle from faith. A set of stairs
from achievement. A riverbed from happiness. A handspan from
peace. A wink away from freedom. A few lines until the poem’s
done. A highway, a night’s sleep, a phone call, a touch, a rotation
of gears away from that certain yes that tells you where you are is
exactly where you need to be. I know, the signs can look as if they’re missing,
and the map so distant and unclear.
But I’m telling you, you aren’t lost. You’re never lost. You’re always here.

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