Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What the World Needs Now is Love

In my city, a young Egyptian boy at the high school has been harassed every day since the Boston bombings. It’s not local news, but his older sister is heartbroken for him. Someone even wrote “terrorist” on his locker in permanent marker, because he looks different. Because people are afraid and that fear trickles down to their children. But this boy and his family fled Egypt because it was no longer safe for them to be there. What happened in Boston was their every day. And an innocent boy is being asked to bear the brunt of our fear because they think he looks like someone else who did an awful thing.
This is what happens when we feed our fear. We create more. Fear breeds fear.  You would think that a city with such a large refugee population would be more tolerant of its diversity. We become strange creatures when we feed our fear instead of our love.
I saw the same thing happen in 2001, when I started my first day of work in a new city on September 12, at a grocery store catering largely to veiled women. I watched an older customer scream when a Muslim woman entered with her three children. She left her cart where it was, grabbed her purse, and ran out of the store. I listened to a woman rant for twenty minutes about how you could never know if it was a man or a woman “under there” and how that wasn’t fair to Americans. The more people fed into their fear, the uglier it became.
We always try to make this about those who are other than us. But Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, was American. He was born in my hometown and raised just outside of it in my working class, All-American blue collar corner of the state. This isn’t about 9/11, Oklahoma City, or the Boston bombings. It’s about the horrible things that happen every day and the tools we use to bear them. It’s about truly believing, beneath the skin, that we are all relations.
If I trace my genetic DNA back far enough, what strange soil might I find their lines journeying through? I know, right now, that there are men and women in Poland, Ireland, Germany, Scotland, and the Netherlands who can trace themselves back to the same ancestors as me. These men and women are my cousins. However distantly, we share blood. We are all relations.
I see the eyes of cousins in the eyes of strangers in the street. I smile at them and wish them wellness and happiness like I would wish it for a loved one. I would not forcefully take anything from them, whether I am in need or not. I deny no one their humanity or personhood.
I see you and I wish you happiness.
We are each responsible for our actions, and for how we respond to events in the world. We are not our race or our gender. We are not where we live or what job we take. We are magic-makers, capable of changing the world with acts of simple kindness. The easiest thing you can do, in times of great stress, is to feed the world your love, instead of your fear and hate.
It is easier to lash out at others from our fear-place. History shows that we have done it and we will continue to do it. We forcibly relocated native tribes, who had already been living here, because of the few tribes that even they were in battle with, who held different, more aggressive beliefs. And we wanted to claim ownership of their land. We held all the indigenous people responsible for a few. We mustn’t forget that. We were wrong.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, we responded in fear to the large Japanese-American presence on the West coast. In 1942 the government rounded up 127,000 Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps. Their crime was having Japanese ancestry. Two-thirds of them had been born here and they were forced to sell off their lands, homes, cars, businesses, etc in order to comply with the government, hoping they could reclaim them when the scare was over. Ten relocation camps were built in seven states. Those families lost everything they had because of choices our government made from a place of fear. They were held for up to four years in inadequate housing with poor food supplies, like prisoners.
I only learned about that when my Interfaith youth group spoke to a man who had grown up inside one of those camps. It was hard for my naïve mind to believe. When I returned home and pulled out my Global Studies text book, I could only find one sentence that said, and I have never forgotten, “For their own safety, some Japanese-Americans were located to camps during the war.” That was it.
In this current time of crisis and fear, it would be easy to segregate ourselves from the unknown things that scare us. It would be easy to jump into the trust-no-one pool of thought. What would be brave and courageous, would be to continue to believe that people are good people, and that people want to be good people. I choose to believe that one smile or one kind word make a difference to someone on the edge of choosing to feed their hate.
I am afraid. I see that you are afraid. We are afraid. Let us not be afraid of each other.
To best honor my ancestors, I will learn from the mistakes they made from their places of fear. I will feed my love and give that to the world. I will ask questions before I assume or accuse. I will be patient and tolerant with the differences between us while working towards a way of living together harmoniously. I choose to be brave.

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