The art teacher at my school worked with a group of her students to come up with a word for each of the twenty-five days leading up to Christmas. Members of the school community are then asked to post a photo that represents the idea of that word.
Today’s word is Truth. How do you come up with a visual representation for Truth? I walked outside on my break to try to get an image of a tree without leaves, thinking that Truth is what remains after all is laid bare. But on the way to the woods, I passed this patch of cold-blasted hosta. I love the colors and textures of the curled and skeletized leaves. And here’s a truth: Everything moves toward dissolution and decay, and then moves ’round again to birth and regeneration. But there’s beauty and grace in ALL the stages. The withering reveals patterns and structures that are perhaps less visible when the leaves are full and green.
But I couldn’t stop there, and searched my albums for past photos that might fit the brief:
Gratitude List: 1. Latkes for supper! Thank you, Sonya! 2. The crows are back. I love the massive flocks of crows, dotting the trees, filling the sky, sprinkling the tawny corn stubble. 3. Stories. 4. The inspiring life of Rosa Parks. Today is the 66th anniversary of her decision to stay seated on a bus, disrupting injustice and creating space for change. With what actions shall we commemorate her holy act? 5. The dreamtime of winter. May we walk in Beauty!
“I had given up my seat before, but this day, I was especially tired. Tired from my work as a seamstress, and tired from the ache in my heart.” ―Rosa Parks
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” ―Bryan Stevenson
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Without vision, people perish, and without courage and inspiration dreams die.” ―Rosa Parks
“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.” ―Ijeoma Oluo
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ―Audre Lorde
“Nah.” ―Rosa Parks said this when asked to give her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery
Gratitude List: 1. The little goldfinch who likes to sit on rim of the window and peek inside the house. 2. I’m walking more. I am feeling stronger, more able to go the distance without getting winded. My mantra for walking and yoga this summer is limber-healthy-strong. 3. Estoy progresando en mis estudios de español. Okay, so I had to use Google Translate for a couple pieces of that, but had I seen that sentence, I would have been able to translate it into English! Yo aprendo un poco todos los dias! I wrote that one myself, so perhaps there’s an error somewhere, but I AM learning. 4. The fierce pink of those wild peas out on the bluff. 5. The daylilies are blooming in orange glory.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly–in Beauty!
This feels defensive. I am open to instruction and learning.
I have had some pushback from friends on social media who say that I am shaming non-mask-wearers. I think that shame is rarely useful for long-term positive benefits, and I want to keep interrogating my actions and intentions. So yes, this Freddy Mercury thing I posted is pretty snarky. It’s also kind of funny. I guess I want to push back a little myself, at the people who are complaining about this being a restriction of their freedoms. But perhaps this isn’t the way to change hearts and minds.
I have a friend who says that wearing a mask could cause her severe health problems and even death. I have not heard of that before, but I want to listen to her anxiety. She tells me that I am speaking from a position of privilege, and I want to listen to that, and challenge that within myself. She said that the conversation engendered by that post was stressing her out, and I didn’t want to add to her stress, so I am bringing it here instead.
Perhaps the perception issue here belongs to her, but perhaps I am blind to something here, and I need to keep wrangling my responses.
I feel like my relative health is a privilege, and that staying home as much as possible, and social distancing, and wearing the mask actually protects others whose health is more precarious than mine. Yes, not everyone is privileged to be able to stay home and social distance when businesses are re-opening and calling employees back to work. But wearing a mask when I am able–when I have to go out and be in the presence of those people who have to be back in the public arena–seems to be a way to lessen the burden for those folks as well.
One day, on my social media feeds, I began to see the word “hypercapnia” everywhere. People were suddenly talking about how dangerous and unhealthy it is to breathe inside a mask where you’re recycling your own CO2. And I want to be aware that this might be an issue for some people. I haven’t seen scientific and medical writing that supports this, especially for people wearing the cloth and disposable masks. Air passes through. It’s the droplets we’re concerned about, and the masks do, according to the scientists, help to mitigate the droplets. But suddenly everyone was concerned that they might be experiencing hypercapnia. Our beloveds who work in health care work for long hours in masks, and I haven’t heard about this issue before.
I’m conflicted, but not about mask-wearing. I know people who are organ transplant survivors. I know people with respiratory ailments and issues. I know people with asthma. Many of my beloveds are over the age of 65. I wear a mask in public because I want the world to be safer for them. I continue to be willing to interrogate my privilege in conversations about health and accessibility, but from every angle I look at this, I think the right thing to do (if your health allows it), for the health of ALL of us, is to WEAR THE MASK.
Here are the current CDC Guidelines for mask-wearing: CDC Guidelines. Here is a Vox article on the World Health Organization Guidelines: WHO. Here is an article discussing the reality of hypercapnia: Health.com. Here is an article from NPR about how mask-wearing mitigates the effects of the virus: NPR. Finally, an article on one more study about mask-wearing as mitigation: Pennlive.
“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” —Eckhart Tolle
“We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own—indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.” —Wangari Maathai
“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” ―Eleanor Roosevelt
“Do you not see how everything that happens keeps on being a beginning?” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up.” —Anne D. LeClaire
“To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle. ” —Walt Whitman
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.” —Etty Hillesum
“Am I killing time, or is it killing me?” —The Middle Brother Band
PSA for the day: Don’t let the Russian bots and trolls make you mean. Don’t let them cause you to turn a less-than-ideal choice into a non-choice: A non-choice is actually a terrible choice here. Too much is at stake. If the thought of voting in November for a candidate other than your top primary choice makes you consider staying home, consider whether that might be a position of privilege. Consider all that has been consciously and wilfully eroded by this government. Consider all the people harmed. Consider the brutal tearing apart of children from their families. Consider the wanton destruction of environmental protections. Consider the attacks on the school system. Consider the equating of Nazis and anti-racism protesters. Consider the erosion of women’s rights, of LGBTQ+ rights, of safety nets for anyone who is not wealthy, white, straight, and male. When the time arrives that a candidate has been chosen to run against this monstrous administration, think about those more vulnerable than you, and vote, no matter who wins this primary.
And in the meantime, prepare the conversation for that moment. If your candidate might lose, and you want to end this march toward fascism, then tearing down the potential nominee is counterproductive. Press for the goals and ideals of your candidate. Speak hopefully of the future they promise. Grieve when they’re out. But put everything you have into protecting those who are becoming daily more vulnerable to the predations and depradations of the current administration.
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday morning’s moon. Driving to school with the sun rising ahead of us, and the moon setting behind us. 2. One more day away from the time change. I felt it yesterday, in my back, in my fuzzywuzzy head. This morning, I am starting out much more refreshed. 3. All the flowers! Crocus, anemone, daffodil, speedwell, dead nettle. . . 4. At least one of the Little Sisters has been visiting the flowers, gathering pollen for her Lady. She may have been from someone’s hive, but she may have been from a feral hive, which makes me happy to consider. 5. If I put butter in my coffee, and whir that up with a blender, does it mean I just had a protein shake? Whatever, it gives me a morning boost of energy.
White Supremacy is an ancient and virulent virus that has infected this country since its founding. It began with a “Manifest Destiny” that wiped out any humans that stood in the way of the European conquest of the New World and continued with an “all men [sic] are created equal” that didn’t recognize all the humans as human, ignoring the inhumanity of brutally enslaving thousands of African people.
White people, we are all infected to some degree. We have absorbed it in the images we have seen, the media we have consumed, the education we have received, and even the sermons we have heard in our churches. It’s everywhere. It’s no longer slavery or wholesale slaughter of the First Nations. It’s no longer explicitly codified in apartheid-style laws. It’s subtler, more insidious.
Oh, it’s also obvious. The woman on the video spewing the n-word and saying she’d say it again. The white people calling the police on black and brown people for simply existing in public spaces. The police officers who shoot first, shoot pre-emptively, and walk free of the murders they commit. And the epidemic (yes) of white men slaughtering people with their weapons of mass destruction–we have reached the point when it’s no surprise to discover that the madman with the AK-47 is a self-avowed White Supremacist.
And while we have been searching for ways to combat the virus within ourselves and our communities, the president and his cronies in the halls of power in this country are feeding the virus, adding to its virulence and strength. From his tweets to their shrugs and tepid explanations, the virus is being fortified and given room to bloom. When frat boys pose in celebration in front of a memorial to a black boy killed for the color of his skin, when people sworn to defend and protect all people are serving up vileness and hatred on the internet, when our nation is caging brown children and people of faith say they deserved it, when a raging and disaffected youth posts a manifesto about race and then picks up a gun to kill as many people as he can before he goes down in a blaze of non-glory, it’s not only the virus itself that is to blame. It is those who spread and nourish it.
I call out the president of the United States for spreading the virus of white supremacy, for normalizing it, for egging on his weak-minded followers to vile and horrendous acts. He and his enablers must be held accountable for their words and actions.
I’m not letting myself off the hook. I’m not letting you off the hook. All of us whose skin gives us privilege have a responsibility to deal with the virus within ourselves, within our communities, within this nation.
If you are white, I urge you to join me in several actions. First, let’s look inside and keep opening doors of awareness. It’s never enough to simply call out the racists out there. We need to look at the racists inside ourselves. When we feel defensive or self-righteous, those are clues that we are holding on to our own privilege in unhealthy ways. Examine. Repent. Let go. Grow. Move on. Repeat.
And then, let’s find one thing, or two, or twenty, that we can use to identify white supremacy in clear and articulate ways. Let’s call it out. Post it on our social media. Speak out. Open conversations. Teach our children. Spread the word. We need to kill this virus.