Sunday, March 13, 2011
In light of what's happening in Japan, I have been thinking . . .
I remember the point at which I had a political shift in thinking about the United States. I recall having a realization that the foundation for understanding this country and its ills must be based on a truly historical framework. We occupy this land. Its greatly reduced number of indigenous inhabitants survived mass genocide and colonization, and everything since then has been built on that. From there, European colonizers decided to steal people from Africa and force them into slavery. For fuck's sake. Everything since then has stemmed from there. At some point, this became very solid for me, and everything shifted - my political analysis began to mature and the way I thought about everything changed forever. This might seem really basic to some people, but I went to public school in California. No one was talking about this as part of my formal education, and my immigrant parents were focused on our survival. We didn't have conversations like that when I was growing up, and as an adult, I seem to be one of the only members of our family who's interested in having them even now.
I remember a conversation once, on tribe.net, an online space where people used to actually have conversations about things. We talked about an article, a writer, someone who said that the United States is a nation of trauma survivors. [An aside: I love this form of knowledge and information sharing. I could spend hours digging around online trying to find the article and the name of the author. Cite something, tell you what kind of degree this person has. "Legitimize" it. Rather, I like organic wisdom. Someone said this once. It rang true for many others. The others talked about it, and shared the idea with even more people. Thus it became true. When did we stop valuing organic wisdom and truth?] And it is true, this idea about our nation of trauma survivors. From the original inhabitants of this land and their descendants still reeling & healing from colonization and genocide to some Europeans misguidedly trying to find a new world in which they could be free, to Africans forced into slavery (and still trying to work their way out of it. Can we say Prison Industrial Complex?), to every new wave of immigrants coming into this country to escape persecution, war, economic or political disaster . . . we are largely survivors, with relatively few systems in place for healing, collective or otherwise. Of course, our capitalist and individualistic culture devalues healing. It says, instead, "You are a survivor. Keep surviving. Go make money and be better than anybody ever thought you would be." Put this at the core of the larger context of globalization, and all other countries and people in the world and how they relate to the US in terms of resources, culture, power, and everything else . . . and I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that this truth, this historical truth has since affected everything for me: the way I think, the way I work, the way I talk, the way I purchase, the way I relate . . . the way I am and the way I do as an American and as a human being.
Today, there is also a present truth that I know I need to acknowledge as I try to figure out how to "be" and "do" in the world, and that I hope other folks will acknowledge as they do their work & live their lives. Ready? Here it is: climate change is real. If you are doing political work, organizing work, policy work, healing work, teaching, running a corporation, making lattes all day, working with youth, trying to empower people in any population at all, trying to raise a family, trying to be a conscious consumer, anything at all, really, stop for a moment and let that sink in. Climate change is real. It affects everybody. That includes you. Environmental work can not be considered the territory of nature walkers and farmer's market go-ers any longer. This is our present truth. Our actions affect this truth. This means our individual actions, like riding a bike instead of driving, or eating low on the food chain and composting. It's also about our collective actions or inactions, like supporting or not yet having dismantled systems like our federal government's subsidizing of Big Petroleum so as to fulfill our resource needs through non-renewables, when the technology to fulfill them through renewables exists, yet lacks the subsidies Big Petrol gets.
Some might say what is happening in Japan is not directly related to climate change. To them, I say, are you willing to wait around until the definitive scientific proof comes through? You might be under water, or caught in an earthquake, or frantically eating kelp to ward off radiation poisoning by then. I, for one, would rather try to do the right thing now, rather than wait for somebody to "prove" to me that my suspicions were right all along, and that, in this case, correlation does in fact mean causation.
It's terrifying to me to try to hold the truth of all this. But I know that as I, no, as We strive to do truly intersectional work in the world, we have to acknowledge reality, acknowledge what we know to be true. And we have to take responsibility for doing something to heal our deeply traumatized country, people, and planet. I know it might seem like an impossibly uphill battle, but there is a lot at stake here: humanity. And I know I want to go out having tried my best.
I'm sending love, hope for healing, and a promise to keep trying to align my actions with my knowledge and my heart, to Japan, to Haiti, to the Gulf Coast, to the Middle East, to the Mid-West, to all places and all beings.