I have been struggling lately to find and give voice to my feelings and thoughts about the divisive, scary nature of our national landscape lately. I live in a privileged city, in a lovely neighborhood, surrounded by many comforts, and yet I am anxious and distracted and fundamentally unhappy. What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, broke my heart, but then so does the almost daily hate-filled speech of our president, the condition of the homeless in our city, the 60 Minutes report about a long term Guantanamo prisoner, the killing of large numbers of black people in so many communities in this country, the ignorance of those shout “lock her up” in robotic fashion, the epidemic of deaths from opioids in poor communities, the plight of those who are Muslim in our country, and the list could continue on and on…
I have been careening about in my comfortable life trying to find my footing, trying to discover a way of coping with this vast sea of darkness and injustice. This weekend there will be a major right-wing, Neo-Nazi rally in my beautiful city of San Francisco, which on the face of it appears to be the last location in the country where this could be welcomed and accommodated without serious consequences. Or is it? San Francisco’s history of alternative life styles, of bohemianism, of ethnic diversity and rich deep cultural history, may just be the place where the hate-filled language of the alt-right can spew forth without harm, where people can just stand in witness to this dark, terrifying human vision rather than instigate further hatred and violence…. I simply don’t know. Or, when we show up in counter-protest, are we simply legitimizing a historically and socially unacceptable world view?
In the meantime, my instinct is to pull back, to go in the opposite direction of confrontation despite my powerful opposition. This makes me uncomfortable and almost embarrassed. As a number of activists lately have said, this is not a time for indifference and inaction. To shirk participation and defending our beliefs is to aid the very movement we wish to stop. It is cowardly, gutless. I guess there are times when it was enough to stay quiet and reflective, locked away in our private spaces, perhaps doing our creative work in the hopes that would change the world. But what about now?
As I struggle today and this weekend with my sense of being pulled apart inside by differing views, I put this out there to those who are reading my words. What intentions do you have as you navigate the dark landscape of today’s America? How do you want to play the part of citizen in this culture? The Buddha taught that hatred never ends by hatred, but by love alone … and of course Gandhi and Martin Luther King preached and manifested the power of non-violent resistance, the carrying forth of love for one’s fellow beings. But just how do you manifest love in the face of wildly irrational hatred? How do you bear witness and hold your ground these days and stay safe at the same time? I’m speaking of the fear that lurks inside many of us, for our safety, for our life, I guess.
Can we really take this fear out onto the streets and stand up for our beliefs and help to change the course of history? I wish I had answers and a clearer sense of the “one true thing” inside myself, about what my authentic self needs to do.
Right now I pause, take deep breaths, listen to beautiful music, and try to listen to the voice of my heart. Because, as my wise Buddhist teacher has said many times, “the heart never lies.”