the human right to home

recently i have been experiencing the unique joy of home, when my home is in order, has the right amount of things in it and no more, has capacity for holding friends, family, laughter. when the lighting is just right and the sun filters in just so and i have to pause and revel in the clean spare beautiful lines of my home. home for me means the place where i feel safe, surrounded by beauty, the place in which i receive the world.

i think it’s no mistake that one of the oldest sounds we know of, om, is in the word home – i feel it when i am in it.

my sister and her husband recently bought a home around the corner from his parents in rural minnesota. it is beautiful, it is possible because of loans and incentives and friendship with the previous owners. it is the place my nephew and niece and the baby coming in january will grow up. home here means the house itself and the five acres of land around it, the path through the woods to their grandparents’ house.

with the state of the world right now, i have been thinking about the human right of home. in the universal declaration for human rights, the closest right is a right to property in article 17. but i am thinking of this deeper right, which may or may not come from ownership. i think it is the right that so many people around the world are trying to attain or hold onto, which i feel in the privilege and harmony of my home.

here in detroit, we are currently pressed once again to hold onto home as a vicious and quick land grab escalates. a couple years ago our mayor was rebuked for talking about ‘right sizing’ the city, because it would have meant displacing people from their homes. (the effort continues, though the words are different.) it showed that in this city people don’t think of their homes just as the buildings in which they live, but their blocks, neighborhoods, their particular part of the city with it’s histories and fertile grounds. in detroit, as in many cities, home includes sitting on the front porch or stoop, the community gardens, the neighbors who care for each other – home includes the people who fill the world around your building.

it is getting cold again in detroit, and the homeless folk i interact with most are becoming more scarce as they spend less and less time moving about the work of their lives – hustling, hunting, gathering same as anyone else. a friend recently noted that we have more vacant houses in the u.s. than we do homeless people, which i feel acutely aware of in detroit in the winter. it makes me think the rights of owning property should not trump the right to have home. home here means shelter from the elements, a safe place to sleep, to store one’s things.

there are many conflicted nations around the world, most of them with some link back to u.s. foreign policy, few as distinctly supported and funded as our ‘friend’ israel. in gaza, in palestine, there is an old struggle for home happening…palestinians holding onto home, as many have been displaced from the houses that were home and herded into ghettoized sections of land which they cannot leave without permits, in which they are brutally attacked regularly with u.s.-funded weapons. many palestinians hold home in their hands, literal keys to the homes they were moved out of, to which they long to return. home here means land and legacy.

and who is attacking them, but other people? not machines, not alien invaders, but human beings traumatized after centuries of not being able to find safe home on this planet.

when i look at israel i see that we as humans have so much to learn about addressing collective trauma. to be without home is dehumanizing – it is a violence unto itself, and increases the vulnerability to other violence. i’ve been learning that with patterns of bullying and abuse, most people who use violence to move through life learn that behavior by receiving and witnessing violence at a formative age. and that the bullies, underneath the bravado and actions of violence, still feel like victims, powerless.

in the same way it is clear that continual displacement mixed with violence has created the conditions by which the primarily european descended israeli population can feel justified in displacing and murdering the people of palestine, and still call themselves the victims. as with the violent child, steps must be taken to disarm, deescalate, resolve conflict and redirect the positive desire for safety towards a viable option. because home has to be a place where violence is abnormal, free from the tension of potential attack, where none of the children are seen as soldiers, or collateral damage.

in fact, nothing alive, including the planet, should be seen as collateral damage. i love the recognition coming out of Bolivia that home is this planet, that there can be no human rights without earth rights, because fundamentally we have this one small home in all the universe, to share, to care for, to find safety and abundance in. home here meaning source of all life, existence, the only planet capable of sustaining human life that we know of.

to me all of these things are connected – the right to home, the joy of home, the significance of safety, the insignificance of boundaries when we see how small and perfect our home truly is, and how much it relies on the homefulness of all others.

this is how i move through my home with mindfulness:

i compost, reuse and recycle in my home and wherever i find myself,
i use energy and heat sparingly,
i make and display art in my home,
i am constantly learning to simplify – which feels like post-capitalist deprogramming, finding more beauty in space than in materials,
i cook,
and i am intentional about bringing into my kitchen and into the home of my body the most local healthy food possible,
i support the boycott called for by palestinians by not having products from starbucks, sabra hummus, and other zionist companies in my home,
i don’t keep anything i don’t need and love, and i don’t allow toxic energy to build up in my home,
i sweep the floors and make the bed and fold the laundry…

all the while aware that what i have is not guaranteed to anyone yet, and is what i want for all people, is not to be taken for granted, is under attack, and is worth fighting for, is worth living for.

home mehta meditation:

may you find home
may you feel home
may you always be home

may i find home
may i feel home
may i always be home

may we find home
may we feel home
may we always be home.

that you love what you are

my friend sofia finds the best things in the world, the most perfect things. this is one, for all of us who are right now in the snow and cold.

Lines for Winter
by Mark Strand
(for Ros Krauss)

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

here is a video of mary louise parker, (who i love and try to emulate in ways that definitely don’t quite work, as she is long and awkward where i am soft and comfortable) reading this poem.

people keep asking me how i am doing these days, how i am finding detroit. i am finding myself in detroit, and i am loving myself in detroit. there is work here i am suited to, and visions here i am inspired by. i sit in conversations where people are able to speak to lineage, tradition, ancestry, meditation, capitalism, deep ecology, life schooling, healing and resilience – and these are meetings, where we are doing logistical work.

i am being localized, and challenged, and pulled into the glorious mundane that is daily revolutionary work. i couldn’t be more grateful.

and the little blessings keep coming. i went into the Y today and they had a special where they were waiving the joining fee. the family membership here is the same as a single membership in oakland – i am going to get my swim on.

and i baked my first bread loaves, and have plenty more dough in the fridge!