Right after the car rammed into protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia August 12, 2017, I went outside and looked at the trees above the creek. The deep green of the summer leaves was soothing. The impact was a contrast to the lump in my guts and weight in my heart. Intentional violence is impactful.
The Cauldron of Our Humanity
When someone in the role of the president makes flagrant racist statements groups like white nationalists that hold extreme views will be emboldened. They have used his example and the current political climate to gain ground and publicity. The media that showed the violence in Charlottesville Saturday didn’t show the whole story. Hatred wasn’t the only thing percolating in the cauldron of our humanity.
I’m in regular contact with my dear friend Sharon Beckman-Brindley who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is part of a local coalition of clergy who have been meeting for months beginning before the July 8 Klu Klux Klan rally. They intended to meet the Klan members with respect while representing a large groundswell honoring the values of diversity and justice. There were about nineteen to one peaceful protesteors to each Klan member.
Ugliness Catalyzes Goodness
The large ground swell holding open the values of divesity on July 8 was a prelude to the meeting on August 12 when White Nationlists met to “unite the right”. In response, Beloved Community of Charlottesville was launched - a fund raising campaign for local groups dedicated to supporting those that White Supremacist’s hatred targeted. This was Aikido Activism at work – meeting adversity and using it to generate positive results for the people most at risk. It was the ugliness of this bigotry that catalyzed this innovative compassionate response.
Impact of Ignorance
There isn’t any guarantee that good intentions will stop violence and prevent death. It didn’t Saturday. I needed to pause to digest the impact. By the trees and without human structures in sights, I was looking for perspective.
"Hatred doesn't end by hatred but by non hatred alone." I could see the significance of the Buddhs'a words and the impact of ignorance any time we hate someone or a group of people. It requires that we see ourselves or our group as fundamentally different from the people we oppose.
I could see that this kind of ignorance wasn’t limited to the recent events in Charlottesville. The same root is underlying other national and global crisis we are navigating. My mind went to the climate crisis. I could see the impact of ignorance when corporate greed denies climate science in order to profit. This kind of thinking acts as if oil companies and the people who work for them are separate from the web of life.
Acting as if we are fundamentally separate from each other or the web of life is rooted in a misunderstanding, a state of consciousness that isn’t seeing the whole picture. If misunderstanding is at the root of the problem then alternatives to seeing ourselves as separate and immune from each other and our impact on the greater whole is going to be an important part of the solution. We don’t need to have all the details worked out. It matters that see that we have an impact on those we interact with and the world around us. It matters when we face our fears, release our stories and views and find a way to hold our hearts open – even when we are facing the enemy - to seeing “them” as human with needs and fears too. Opening to the human doesn’t mean we like them, agree with their views or let them harm others.
Barak Obama's tweet quoting Neslon Mandela sums it up:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The Great Turning
I inferred from my ongoing conversations with Sharon that it was a combination of insight, love, and maturation that was behind the coalition of clergy in Charlottesville meeting and responding to the challenges of their city. We need coalitions. We need to find creative ways to meet adversity and transform it into opportunity. When we remember that the only future worth building includes everyone, we are part of a great turning - turning away from greed and ignorance. This leaves me resolute.