I live in Charlottesville, VA. On Saturday, August 11, the date of the white supremacist rally here, I was in South Dakota visiting my stepsister and supporting the sacred Lakota Sundance ceremonies. On that afternoon, a friend in Chicago texted me and asked if I was aware of events unfolding violence in my hometown. I looked at the newspaper on my Android. What I saw shocked me. I was filled with grief, anger, and confusion. As so many of us were and still are.
Nevertheless, over the following two weeks, I took my time to provide a response to ensure that I was not speaking out of despair, anger or hatred. Oh, yes, I have felt these emotions upon contemplating the beliefs and actions of the individuals who gathered in Charlottesville to promulgate hatred and division and the ideologies of white supremacism.
I have been shaken, much as I was shaken on 9/11 as I watched the Twin Towers falling live on television. During the week I was in South Dakota, as I cooked and conversed with new friends, both Native and white, I also heard many hard stories of injustice and violence, particularly against the Water Protectors of Standing Rock. My heart was already aching when events in my hometown went down.
So it was that I watched myself navigating through the chaos of three airports on my way home, and feeling suspicious and afraid whenever my eyes fell on a red-faced white man. Could he be a white supremacist?
Oh, yes, I thought to myself: this is how enemies begin to be made in our hearts and minds. Harm is done by a few individuals and the seeds of fear begin to be sown and the roots of stereotypes begin to grow. Here I see in myself the same causes and conditions which perpetuate cycles of violence and hatred.
I know better. I know how how the mind can trick me. Stereoptypes are always
incorrect. I also know that hatred does not help. It only adds fuel to the fire. Fear leaves us vulnerable. Anger eats away at our basic human birthright to happiness. Despair is paralyzing. All of it kills peace, caring, hope, optimism, and love. And when these eternally positive qualities are suppressed, the mind of domination of one over the other all too easily takes over.
And, yet, like most of us, my heart is broken. And like most of us, I want all of this to finally, finally bring to an end the destructive power of hatred. To using violence as the first response to conflict. To ending the idea that power over is necessary to ensure safety and security. To finding a way to create a world of caring, kindness and love.
So, where do we go from here? How am I working with my own anger and fear? How am I dismantling this inner movement towards enemy-making?