Someone said to me recently:
My dilemma is showing up pure of heart when white supremacy is the conversation. I do not want a world that works for the KKK nor the neo-Nazis. I do not see myself listening with an open heart, and understanding whatever pain has gone into forming their position.
I really appreciate the honesty and openness of the writer. It’s so easy in these times to ‘pretend’ to go along with a situation, rather than admit/own one’s hesitation and reluctance.
As you know, racism/sexism and other forms of ‘otherness’ are some of the societal symptoms coming up for resolution in our upcoming program, “Releasing the Shadow; Embracing the Light” (S2L). And, dealing with the “Other” is just one of our four negative aspects, or “Shadows” – the others being Violence, Lack and Despair.
What we will be doing in S2L is uprooting each of the four Shadows from our society. This cannot be done, however, unless we are first willing to uproot the Shadow from our own hearts.
Fighting Anger with Anger… Fear with Fear
I have to admit – oppositional energy DOES feel good at times! During an urban rebellion in Camden, NJ many years ago, I put a nice, fat brick through a plate glass window. The window shattered in stages, the sound of breaking glass going on for what seemed like a long time. Cool!
I then discovered something else from that event – the kick you feel from oppositional energy is very temporary. Within a few minutes, I was looking for another window to smash, another car to torch.
In the context of the writer’s statement, the good feeling that you get from opposing skinheads and Nazis lasts but a moment, while the bad can go on for a long time.
Do I want to ‘Create a World That Works for…” Nazis and Skinheads?
I have ten responses:
- HELL NO!
- It’s the wrong question.
- “Nazi” and “Skinhead” and “White Supremacist” are labels. Anyone can move beyond labels. Do not deny someone who is wrong the opportunity to transform. Don’t hold the ‘Other’ to their labels.
- No one is born a “Nazi” or a “Skinhead”. Or a sexist. Or violent. Or depressed. I want to create a world where everyone can overcome their limitations, not be held to them. It is quite a challenge, but I have to be able to “see” past the robes, the swastikas, the other masks of separation and fear. I have to be able to “see” the Divine birthright of all people, all beings.
- When people are filled with anger, or powerlessness, or emptiness, or despair, they are driven to exclusivity and extremism. (Please see Chris Hedges’ excellent article: “How Antifa Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’”, in Truthdig.)
- When people are encouraged to transform, they can become powerful, they can develop a clear identity, they can become whole. And they can then drop their separatist labels.
- Everyone has experienced pain. I have experienced my share of pain. And, I would take out my pain by causing pain to others. By causing pain to YOU. (Yes, people like you, the person who is reading this right now.) With the help of my friends, some wise teachers, and the Grace of the Divine, I was able to transcend my pain. I would be a hypocrite if I denied that possibility to others.
- You may have heard my “rats in the cage” story. When I was in college, this was a psychology experiment we would conduct: get two rats and put them in a cage. Make the cage big enough, with adequate food and water, and the two rats will cohabit peacefully. Then, send a mild electric shock through the metal floor of the cage. The two rats will immediately attack each other. Their rat story: “I’m in pain, and there’s another rat. He must be causing my pain in some way.”
Our challenge: to become smarter than a rat. While that may sound funny, for those who are running on their fear and anger, it’s pretty hard to elevate their consciousness while believing they are under attack.
- The Shadow of the Other, and each of our Shadows, presents itself to us for OUR healing, not just the person we may oppose. Not just society as a whole. We can’t fix “them” unless we are willing to fix “us”. And the opposite is also true: we can’t heal ourselves without also being willing to heal our “Other”.
- “We, the People” does not mean “We, the People Who Agree with Me”. In order for us to have a society, “We” have to transform our notion of “the People” – beyond nationality, beyond borders, beyond race or ethnicity, beyond class or circumstance.
Our challenge is to make “We, the People” become synonymous with “humanity”.
Many times, people come up to me and say, “Thank you for your work!” I am quick to remind them, “Hey, this is YOUR work, too!”
For those who don white robes or swastikas, who march in the streets, spreading fear and anger… we have to carry them, on our backs, to a new society.
And, for those who give all their attention to “opposing” the supremacists (which makes them stronger), who spend all of their time denouncing the ‘Other’ while spending little or no time envisioning a transformed society for all… we have to carry them on our backs, also. Our hope is that all of us “rats” figure out how to turn off the pain… for us all.