Other responses to Charlottesville on Global Sisters Report:
I just finished watching Vice News' inside account of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 11 and following. It is not for the faint-hearted but may well be required viewing for anyone who is trying to understand what is happening in the United States of America these days. Prepare yourself for multiple atrocities — violence, hate speech and vulgar language. The account can best summarized in two words: raw hatred. Hatred of blacks, Jews, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and liberal white America.
So many are trying to understand what is happening, and the efforts of some (most notably the president of the United States), are making a bad and dangerous situation much, much worse.
On the other hand, we have renowned Buddhist teacher Pema Chodrin, who is suggesting, "Awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It's becoming critical."
Then there is New York Times columnist David Brooks, who says that that modesty is what is lacking, and "competing vitriols only build on each other."
Finally, there is the joint public statement of the Dominican Sisters Conference in the USA, which poignantly reminds us: "Under the banner of free speech, hate speech is nothing more than hate and is not American."
Those in touch with their deeper selves who have even the slightest sense of history are probably hearing an inner voice saying something like this: "This is a time to stand up and be counted. Silence is consent."
The all-too-familiar quote from Martin Niemöller may be ringing in others' ears — a little paraphrased here: "They came for Jews and I said nothing; they came for the blacks and I said nothing; they came for the LGBTQ community and I said nothing; then they came for me and there was no one left to say anything."
What are we to say, though? And how are we to be in the face of such hatred? Of course, we need to let our elected representatives know that the road down which the president is leading the country is intolerable and un-American, and not only he, but they also will be held accountable. This action — even when grounded in love — is still just a beginning. By itself, it is akin to treating a symptom and not the cause.
What if we were to try to something additional, something that might speak to the heart of the matter? What if we were to look right into the face of the hatred that is eating so many of us alive?
One way to do this would be to watch the disturbing clip referred to above, even if it means you lose some sleep. No excuses allowed, especially this one: "I don't want to fill my head with those images, or my ears with the voice of hundreds of white men chanting in the dark, 'You will not replace us,' followed by: 'Jews will not replace us.' "
Too many have suffered too long at the hands of white supremacy. There is so much at stake. We need to know the terrain. We need to feel what it feels like to watch others hating. We need to let ourselves feel even our own capacity for hate and all that it arouses in us.
Why? Because we need to become intimate enough with hate so that we may never become its slave. Consciously and deliberately, allow any and all of the hatred you have experienced to be enfolded by love.
Next, in your heart, single out a player from the news clip. It may be the president; it may be James Alex Fields, the driver of the car that killed innocent young Heather Heyer; it may the man toward the end of the clip who displayed his arsenal of weapons. Send the energy of love into their lives and send it repeatedly. In your mind's eye, place this love gently into their hearts. Don't give up on this. It is a form of interior engagement that the contemplative tradition has long known is extremely potent.
Look for every opportunity in your own life to express concern and affection. It may be for the driver who cuts you off at the intersection, the delivery person who comes to the door in need of a drink of water, or someone within your own household who is driving you crazy. Do not belittle any of these efforts. The scientific community has joined the great spiritual traditions in testifying that, through the physical principles of non-locality and entanglement, the "separate parts" of the universe are in fact connected in intimate and immediate ways. The transmission of energies is possible.
Here is the way poet Mary Oliver says this:
I would say that there exists a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the river and ourselves — we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other's destiny.
Many things happen when we engage energies like hatred in the above manner. Most obviously, we find ways to avoid responding in a manner that actually backs us into becoming the very thing we so oppose. In this way, our interior space is freed up, and enormous creativity in responding becomes available to us.
If you think this just some crazy theory, check out the Aug. 17 New York Times article titled, "How to Make Fun of Nazis." It recounts how a little German town near the Czech border repelled Nazi sympathizers through humor and out-of-the-box thinking. They actually convinced town residents to donate 10 euros for every meter that Nazi sympathizers marched.
At the end of the event, the townsfolk announced to their unwelcome guests that the money was being donated to a program that helps people leave right-wing extremist groups.
Long ago, I heard a Benedictine sister, Donald Corcoran, suggest that global spirituality might be best imaged as a spiral, since the spiral moves inward, outward and forward.
Chodron stresses the critical importance of waking up to all of reality, including those feelings we would rather deny, an inward movement that looks hate directly in the eye.
Brooks is reminding us that it is modesty we need, and he points out that "wiser minds" recognize that "competing vitriols only build on each other." This is a challenge to avoid outward responses in which we become what we hate.
The Dominican sisters challenge us to name things as they really are, a way to move forward through which the power of truth awakens creativity and courage.
How were you thinking of responding?
[Margaret Galiardi is a Dominican Sister from Amityville, New York, whose passion is the contemplative integration of justice and peace for people and planet. She is a "lover of the wild," a spiritual director and workshop and retreat leader who has lectured nationally on the new cosmology and the Christian story. She spent a year living with the Trappistine monks in their monastery on the Lost Coast of Northern California in the Redwood Forest.]