Monthly Archive for November, 2015

Compassion/We are all being

Yesterday there were coordinated terrorist attacks all over Paris. I was shaken by it – Paris is one of the places that has shaped me, I’ve been many times and have friends and family in the area.

And then I was doubly shaken by the response of my radical circle of friends – ‘to respond to terrorism in Paris but not in other places is narrow/ignorant/racist’. Or that even as we see the crisis unfold we should remember this is France’s political due.

My initial reaction was frustration and disappointment – I hate the insertion of critique in a moment of genuine emotion and grief. The assumptions and reductions that get made there. This might be my weakness as a revolutionary…but I really wonder if we ever want to be beyond compassion. Is compassion too much to offer?

And yet.

The day before, there were attacks on Beirut. On a regular basis there are attacks on Syria, on Palestine, on Baghdad, in so many specific and ancient homes. There are places where people live in constant, systemic violence. Yes there is racism in who we can see in pain. (The US is one of these places but the bulk of our violence comes from our citizens against each other, our unnamed high stakes civil war….but that’s another post.)

In certain parts of the world, there is such continual violence that we barely take note of it as a global community. Such violence that we hold it as something fantastical, because we cannot imagine living in those conditions. And lacking such imagination means that when people react to the constant violence by unleashing it, letting it whip out and touch someone or some place beyond the invisible boundary of safety and nonsafety, we earnestly ask ‘who would do such a thing?’

Privilege includes being able to live in a violent world without hearing the gunshots. There are places where we can pretend that violence doesn’t exist. For many of us Paris has been/is such a place.

Tourism is a way of getting to know the surface of a place, and Paris gives such a gorgeous and delicious top layer. I think of Paris as crepes, hammams, art, love, Baldwin and Simone, balconies and kissing. But I also know better – top layers can only cover a rotten core for so long. To be radical is to be willing to acknowledge the rotten core of present day conditions and seek to heal, transform and grow something absolutely new at the very root of society.

I think compassion has to be part of what we’re growing, what we’re training into ourselves at the root. For me, compassion usually means being able to see myself in others, my weakness or fear, my humanity.

Often those creating the conditions of violence are able to stay far away from the daily experience of it. By this I don’t mean actual terrorists or mercenaries. I have always thought of them as victims of those with resources and decision making power in this world, those still concentrated in the ‘West’, Europe and the US, those who continue to live in such a level of indulgence that the entire planet is being thrust into climate crisis to meet our need for fuel, materials, new new new things.

Many victims of our current economy are refugees right now, seeking home and safety amongst hostile nations who don’t want the burden.

I think of Warsan Shire’s poem Home:

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

But refugees and terrorists are fruit and flower of the same tree. People of a place that has become unlivable. Different theories of change…perhaps the distinction is hope vs hopelessness. I believe that no one blows themselves up in a crowd of strangers if they believe there is a way to live with dignity. Now we have this impossible foe – intergenerational hopelessness.

We have to be able to imagine the unimaginable to understand the long suffering at the root of terrorism. And then we have to be unflinching in tracing the lines of causation, especially when they run back to our own government, our own tax dollars.

I’m not saying the US is responsible for all terrorism in the world – that is us centering ourselves yet again. There are fundamental belief systems that are legitimately regressive. But those systems flourish in the condition of armed inequality. And I am saying that the US arms inequality, manifesting chaos and disaster in order to control the material world. Our fingerprints are always on the the grenades, our hearts always broken by the carnage.

When terrorism happens, if you are a US taxpayer, the response isn’t ‘Who would do such a thing?’, but rather ‘What have we done?’, what conditions have we helped generate, what scarcity have we grown in this abundant world? How long can we hold this contradiction?

Yesterday I spiraled through these thoughts – sad for Paris, because I believe there is such a thing as complex innocence. Sad to see how many of my comrades reacted with little to no compassion, and then devastated to know that that lack of compassion is a response to watching the world ignore systemic violence. That what we are generating in the world right now, everywhere, over and over, is borders. Us vs them, those who deserve our compassion and those who do not, barbed wire topped walls between humans we can care about and those we can’t.

We are forgetting each other, forgetting our interconnectedness. We are in one pattern. We have to fight for our right to feel for each other, to remember that ‘enemy’ is a construct, and we can reject it, outgrow it.

I will end with this poem from my brother Sam Conway, which helped me sleep last night.

May I see clearly
That I am the dead in Paris
And I am also their killers
I am the family of the dead in Beirut
And I am the family of their killers
That I am the child of each refugee
And the mother of every despot
I am each ISIL recruit, each American soldier, every exploded hospital and every roadside bomb

May I see clearly
That I with all the living and the dead
with the Great Earth
Awaken together in this moment

May we see clearly together
That there is a Great Way Through violence and fear
Past bloodshed that brings more bloodshed
A way past hate

And seeing all these things clearly
May we with all beings
Simply do them.

nanowrimo, BOLD, and other grown folks business

i am writing my second novel this month!!!, so i won’t be blogging much, but wanted to come on here to share a few things:

1. the novel i am writing has a serious and intriguing situation at the center, but no real plot. i am having the time of my life writing it. i hope someone out there is interested in reading racialized parallel universe snapshots.

2. i was just at BOLD in north carolina – black organizing for leadership and dignity. it’s one of the places i go to restore my soul and spirit, my cool, my belief that the living liberation i long for is possible. it’s one of those things that is difficult to explain when you aren’t there, being with black people intentionally cultivating our dignity, our right to feel loved and safe in our black bodies. we move, dance, sing, struggle, change. all of that is everything, but the thing that is blowing my whole mind right now is that one of the participants, an amazing starlight named kesi, said i was cool. me!?!? and then, another southern starlight named aaron wrote a poem for me !!! and he said it out loud. and then he posted it. the poem actually captures the collective experience of BOLD, this is what we do for and with and to each other. if you love black people you should be supporting this organization.

3. i finally set up a payment plan with a certain entity which has been chasing, hounding and disrupting my peace for several years. it is the lowest i can possibly give because i am still politically at odds with the priorities this entity stands for, and at some point i am sure there will be some other solution that makes the need for this payment plan go away. but right now i feel grown and exhaling at having gotten it solid.

4. i am a month into not smoking. so. !!!

5. i am 20 days into a sugar shift and have managed to hold my head up and my sense of decision making power throughout travel – even through the sweet tea pie shaped dessert fried fish wonderland of the deep south. i am doing this and my novel writing challenge in community, and i feel immensely supported, seen and powerful.

6. i have bitmoji now. now i can finally express myself in text messages and elsewhere.

7. santigold gave me this. and sam smith put this on spotify. and i spent most of the month listening to alabama shakes sing joe.

*update: and then erykah gave us THIS!! timely pleasure activist mantra.

8. i took a day off today, which meant i read volume 5 of saga, my birthday gift from my sister autumn. it was INCREDIBLE and inspiring. and then i found this article, and i read it, and i felt – astounded. astounded. imagination goals – this man used his imagination to survive being stranded at sea for 14 months. here is a taste:

“Alvarenga let his imagination run wild in order to keep sane. He imagined an alternative reality so believable that he could later say with total honesty that alone at sea he tasted the greatest meals of his life and experienced the most delicious sex. He was mastering the art of turning his solitude into a Fantasia-like world. He started his mornings with a long walk. “I would stroll back and forth on the boat and imagine that I was wandering the world. By doing this I could make myself believe that I was actually doing something. Not just sitting there, thinking about dying.” With this lively entourage of family, friends and lovers, Alvarenga insulated himself from bleak reality.”

ok that’s all for now. if you miss me, write me a poem, or a story, or a love note, or a anything. besos til december (unless i desperately need to procrastinate, like this, with you)