For one, long, night, I tuned into the headlines of the 2020 world. I found myself reduced to nothing and I almost did it; I almost allowed hate to take place in my body. I touched a deep loathing for both subtle and loud racism, for both coward and boastful murderers, for systemic racism, and for those who look around with eyes closed. For one, long, night, I was caught in the disquiet of begging God why? Why do bad things happen? Why do people get tortured and murdered? Why was the USA founded on killing, enslaving, and wrongfully establishing second-class citizens? I was stuck in the destructive rhythm of hating hate.
The current American reality is upheld by polarizing the whole: loser versus winner; victim versus offender; oppressed versus oppressor; rich versus poor; private versus public; democrats versus republicans; us versus them; Black versus White; American versus anti-American. I listen to Brontë Velez quote a book, Conflict Is Not Abuse, “Supremacist ideology and traumatized behavior reflect one another.” Opposites appear to be created and continue to exist because of each other. How do we rise above the continual clash of the paradox?
We look back. In mythology, the heart is a place of duality. In chakra work, the heart sits at the center of the energetic body, between low and high vibrations. When balanced, the heart chakra is the gateway to be unstuck. In ancient Egypt, the heart was symbolically weighed against a feather at the time of death. To go on to the afterlife, it was believed that the heart must be lighter than the feather. And then there was Jesus, who embodied unconditional love and forgiveness as the way to rise above whatever stands before us. We go onward.
To be hated and oppressed, we have an ironic obligation to love and liberate. Even after centuries of oppression – –still, we commune, we celebrate, we create, we share, we sing, we dance, we have pleasure. I read a quote in the book, Farming While Black, where Ruby Sales declares to her oppressors: “You cannot make me hate you”. I listen to Kendrick Lamar declare in his song, “They won’t take me out my element.” This is where our strength lives as human beings.
In 2015, I served as the Program Administrator of The Restorative Center –– a restorative justice nonprofit led by people of color. TRC’s programs involve “circle keeping” in which a group willingly sits in a circle, passes around a talking piece, and responds to a storytelling prompt asked by a Circle Keeper. The one rule is only the person with the talking piece may speak, or they may choose to pass.
This method isn’t new. Restorative justice roots in the way of Indigenous people, for basic human connection, community building, and tough problem solving. Circles victoriously exemplify a different way onward, because circles are rooted in native knowledge and understanding. There is no victim and no offender within the circle. Within the circle, we are parallel people, we weave our commonality and encourage each other to look from many angles (quite literally). Within the circle, each of us play an important role, our individual role. As the talking piece passes, the conversation deepens. This emancipating practice of restorative justice allows one to reclaim their voice and to claim their position, at their own pace.
I type in the search page of my computer: what is the root of the name George? Earthworker; Farmer. Not only do we need to look to the historical torment of the people of color, liken to the historical torment of earth –– but we also need to look to the vitality of Black and Indigenous peoples, liken to the vitality of earth. Since December, I have been tending Mohawk land. As I drive toward our humble five acres –– from upstate to more upstate New York –– there is a visible increase of American flags. I hear an internal echo of the gross simplification: Keep America Great. And I wonder to myself, what does the flag connote anymore? We are millions of divided people. In a time like today, we must decide what freedom, liberty and justice looks like for ourselves.
I envision the directions of the sky showing us the way to liberation. I envision the seasons harmonizing us with a master plan. I envision the elements cleansing us. I envision our people in the forest; our people keeping a fire; our people washing in wild water; our people staring into the eyes of an owl perched above. I envision our people reclaiming acres of lush land and doing this: gathering siblings, open source information, skill sharing, collaboration, critical thinking, cosmic learning, mythological studies, fire building, silent journeys, guided meditation, writer and artist residencies, community programs, radical self care, seeding and harvesting, clean water, fresh food, dance, song, storytelling, play!
As if we are sitting together in a circle, maybe it is not our duty to pick a side, but rather, to choose our position. We each are on our own journey. Together, we have the resources. Let us lead from a place of knowing Self –– this is one’s own homework. What inspires you? What is the potentiality of now? What old way can we honor? What new way can we imagine? What is one’s role in this world? We are children of our ancestors. We are children of today. Onward we go.