Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dear Spring, Let Us Make Revolution

Today the coiled green buds appeared on the tree beyond the living room window. Yesterday, Wylie, my downstair's neighbor, and I sat out in the backyard with our children. I watched the two babies (mine and hers, they're a few weeks apart in age) while she filled in mulch and planted flowers. Our big boys Moses and Asa played in the dirt hole she had made for them.

Feeling the grass against my body and watching the clouds float in the cradle of blue sky made me want to cry--I could feel my body opening again. Living in the north it's as if we wear two bodies, the winter bones and the summer skins. The winter body closes in, tightens in hibernation against the cold. The summer body floods out, a loose uncoiling. All my life I have felt this rhythm.

As a college student I lost my mind every spring. All the winter angst pushed to the surface and I felt absolutely mad. It was a little bit thrilling. My dorm roommate and now longtime friend and I sat beside the Mississippi drinking cheap beer and probably speaking in tongues or so it seemed. Her hair in dreadlocks, mine sheared in a bob and dyed blonde.


Josh and I have been married five years now, lived in this apartment most of them. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever move. Maybe we'll just live forever in this lovely little home on a street filled with expensive houses and Moms at the park whose first question is "which house do you own?"

Last night after a circus dinner (that is what dinner out with a baby and a toddler is like) with children at our local restaurant-coffeeshop-music hub, we sat for 15 minutes together on the couch. The radio on Josh's device broadcast the Red Sox game. I insisted on a foot rub. "I have been crying every morning this week about Baltimore," he told me. I look at him and feel the heavy depth of loving another person to the core. He says it's not his struggle. But I insist it is everyone's struggle. Injustice anywhere is our struggle. But when I talk about the recent suicide epidemic on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and he says it is not for us to fix. I understand this idea, that a white person cannot help American Indians as in I cannot go there and save them from their struggle because I don't have some sort of specialized knowledge to offer just because I don't live in abject poverty or carry the weight of a history of genocide of my culture and ancestors--just because I live a privileged life, but my heart aches over the desecration of their culture, their homes, their lives.

I am continuously shocked by the capacity for cruelty that we as humans possess. We. Each of us. Each human. Mind you. I teach my students and my children that every human being has both good and bad in her. But Moses wants to label the "good guys" and the "bad guys" because this is what he has learned in his short life. As do my students.

This past week in my class I showed the students a speech Angela Davis gave at a conference in Rhode Island in 2012 in which she talks about racial violence in American in connection with the Trayvon Martin killing. She says that prosecuting individuals (she is a death penalty and prison abolitionist) will not end the systemic problem of racial violence. We need to see how each murder is connected to the epidemic of racial violence in our country or we don't see the true meaning of the killings.

I also watched a short clip of an interview she did in prison in 1971 in which she talks about how when people ask her about acts of African American violence as protest it is absolutely incomprehensible to her because it shows that these individuals have no idea what African Americans go through on a daily basis. They live in fear. They live violence everyday. So if they react with violence it is no surprise because their lives embody an economy of violence.

The history of that violence is muted out, erased unless you happen to go to college and take a history course about African Americans. We do not teach students in high school the extent to which African Americans have and continue to be terrorized and brutally murdered in this country. We do not teach the American Indian genocide. We are silent. History lost and so the suffering continues. The terror and the violence go on. People turn away and pretend there is some justification for the systemic murdering of groups of people in our country. Others are completely unaware and react with disbelief because it is too painful to sit with the truth and not find someone to blame or punish.

Davis points out in her 2012 speech that because we go immediately to the punishment when someone hurts us, we skip the step where we try to understand what is happening and why. Punishment does not fix the action. Since Trayvon we have seen the murders of black Americans continue with nearly monthly reports of police brutality and murder. The media coverage is pretty good unless you are a Fox News watcher, and people are taking to the streets to protest and demand justice. The road to change is long and hard and probably never-ending, human beings do not evolve morally, contrary to historical opinion. Genocide continues though we pretend in high school history class that the Holocaust was the only one and that we will never let it happen again (to white people). The reason we don't teach it is because children would be outraged, are outraged, and would demand to know why we (the grownups) are allowing this to happen. Just as when we were young and learned of American slavery or the Holocaust we were outraged.


When I think about the future of my marriage, I hope for more time alone with my husband someday. I hope for strength to guide our two boys through this complicated and beautiful world. I hope for joy and occasional days of bliss. I am not opposed to struggle. I struggle. My husband struggles. Our children struggle. Struggle is good. I want to spend more time in nature and visit more cities. I want to enjoy what I have and the smallness of my life. I want to love this moment I occupy though it is incredibly challenging for a variety of reasons. I want to give my husband the space and dignity to live his own life while in communion with me and the children. I want to find silence and cultivate mindfulness in myself. I want to be of service to the world.