I had this lovely on-line interaction with a somewhat privileged, somewhat right leaning black guy. I was attempting to edify him in 144 characters or less about what it is like to walk in poverty of spirit, to have a victim mentality, to be a survivor of trauma, to be trapped in circumstances, and he was trying to tell me people just have to get up and fight.
Like, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get an education, get a job….
He’s not necessarily wrong, but also he just doesn’t understand, he just doesn’t have the eyes to see, the ears to hear. Naturally it was a discussion about culture, politics, and social justice, but it could also pertain to any of us as individuals.
Americans just love a good hero story, don’t we? Rags to riches, overcoming the odds, more than conqueror. Just pick yourself up, get over it, and walk it off. We don’t like to think about the price being paid, the cost, the fact that the devil comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. What is stolen, what is killed, what is destroyed, isn’t coming back.
Sometimes I think of myself as a can of herb flakes, one of those generic cans you buy at a grocery outlet, a discount store, so flavorless as to be unidentifiable, so we just call them “herbs,” what was once a thriving plant, now ground down into little powdery flakes and freeze dried in a hard little can.
Trust is incredibly hard to rebuild. If every time you stand up you get whacked over the head, you just stop trying to stand up. Oh sure, you’ll persist 3 or four times, but eventually standing up doesn’t even occur to you anymore. It’s not even an option. It’s not even listed on the menu.
I do indeed feel much like a can of powdered herb flakes most days, sometimes trying to shake off all the learned helplessness and sometimes just staring at it apathetically and not even trying at all.
That’s how I often feel living here in liberal utopia, in this Dem run blue dot of tyranny, in the midst of feminism and empowerment, even. Isn’t it beautiful here? Peace, love and patchouli, 24/7. Woot, equal rights! People say that to me and I just cringe, I literally cringe. My insides are trying to swallow all the bitter while my face tries to settle into something resembling a numb smile of social pleasantries. While they’re all glorifying in the potential of CBDs and ”spiritual ecotourism,” I just feel all the sad memories, all the suicides and drug overdoses. Every inch of this town is now woven into my soul and on every corner there are the shadows of people no longer with us, dead in part because of the piss poor policies and decisions of our leadership.
My heart is a bit soft towards notions of social justice, towards marxism, towards the idea of burning it all down, not because I believe in any of that ideology, but because I know what it is like to be oppressed, to have no voice, to have no power, to have no dominion over anything in your life at all. To spend everyday completely invisible, not sure whether or not you are hoping for, or fearing people’s complete indifference.
The Israelites spent 40 years wandering around in the desert murmuring to themselves, not because they were bad, but because God needed the time to do the delicate surgery required to remove the slavery mindset from their hearts. One can’t just knock down a wall and set the captives free. We take our captivity with us wherever we go. At one point the slaves even wanted to go back to what was familiar, to go back to pharoah where at least they got fed.
My oppression, those resentments, that struggle against bitterness and hatred, was born right here in the alleged land of milk and honey, in liberal utopia, where one’s life is dominated by the bitter karens of 3rd wave feminism and their lost children, mingled in with those who seek revenge against perceived injustices from the right, and the whole crazy mess liberally sprinkled with the usual greed and corruption that tends to inflict us humans.
I have been learning that forgiveness in economic terms means to literally, absorb the cost. Forgiveness isn’t about peace, love, and patchouli, or catchy slogans like ”Be Kind,” it is about taking a full inventory about what has been lost, stolen, and destroyed, and picking up the tab, paying the bill, absorbing the pain of what was destroyed and taken. Absorbing the sins of others in an act of sacrificial love. That’s why God and I are very close, that’s why my relationship with Him is so strong. I get that part.
But the next part, the part where you forget those sins and far as the East from the West, rise victorious and rebuild something new? Yeah, I have absolutely no idea how to do that part.