A few days ago my friend Lisa told me about this post on Facebook written by a well-respected radical, an acquaintance of hers. It bugged the hell out of me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. He wrote:
“When you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep because the US sent 50 Tomahawk missiles into Syria — continuing and ratcheting up our 27 year war there — and you still see kitty videos and routine postings. Are we so used to this? Is it business as usual? :(“
His comments got a number of responses, mostly agreeing in some way. I liked Lisa’s response best. I know her well. Besides our conversations about parenting (our daughters, who are sisters — same dad) and daughtering (my mom, both her parents), talking about how much we detest Trump and the complexity of everything are two of our favorite topics.
Lisa responded on Facebook:
“Well, the way I look at it is, I am a boat that holds it all. I hold anguish, anger, sorrow, helplessness, frustration, and insomnia about the world situation on the one hand, and I hold the continued daily routine, and some desire for relief and escape before-my-head-explodes as well. It’s a weird surreal thing sometimes, this life. It’s difficult balancing all these contradictions.”
I’m a little sensitive on the topic of people suggesting I should be different (more like them) than I am. I used to not entirely trust that I had a right to be who I was, how I was, with the feelings and priorities that I held. (Tangent: hence, the victory of writing my own thoughts and feelings for two years now, “out loud” in my blog titled “As I am…”)
My 18th and 19th years of life, I cried myself to sleep most nights, grieving my personal loss of the-nation-of-my-childhood I believed stood only for good. I grieved our bombing of the people of Vietnam, then Cambodia and Laos. I was dumbstruck with grief, heart-broken. It was a good thing I could take heed and notice this transgression of our country. Many did, but not everyone. Some didn’t seem to notice or care. With my nightly tears I proved to myself that I witnessed, and I cared. But, to what end?
There are hundreds… No, probably thousands… No, probably millions of better, less-better, and horrible ways to respond. I used to be stuck in tears, but now I say let the creativity rip! Let kindness and compassion flourish! Can we please stop pointing our guilt-tripping and accusatory fingers at each other? Can we please allow — even encourage — rest, humor, beauty, joy, creativity, kids, animals, wonder?
I came upon this gorgeous sweet cat with the black diamond nose and black eyeliner in the small village of Anduze in southern France almost two years ago.
Today I’m posting some of my current favorite videos and photos.
This one gave me all kinds of compassionate feels for the challenges of parenthood and delighted feels for the mysteries of childhood, and the shock of where the two meet.
You could call it distraction. Or you could call it, as Lisa did, being “…a boat that holds it all…” including .. “…some desire for relief and escape, before-my-head-explodes…”
Though my heart is breaking pretty much on a several-times-a-day basis — Syria, the dismantling of all the protective agencies (the EPA, Health & Human Services, Education, State Department, etc), ICE’s actions against immigrants, etc. I no longer cry all the time. I do what I can. I feel like it’s never “enough”, but I don’t condemn myself (or anyone else) for not being “La Passionaria”, Malala, or Mother Teresa.
I desire to contribute with all my strength to relieve suffering in this world. I will always do the best I can. I know you do too. Because that’s what we do. We do the best we can.
Today, as a way of doing the best I can, I’m confessing my broken heart. I confess my desire and longing for a just and compassionate society, and my hatred for what blocks that. I confess my love for, and also my need for beauty, laughter, videos of kids and animals and humans being weird, my need for wonder.
I applaud Laurie Anderson, who said this —
“Ok… with changing the world, I can’t stand it when people tell me what to do. I think — you don’t even know me. What are you telling me what to do for? So. I don’t do that to other people either — tell them they should march or they shouldn’t, or they should do political art… You should do what you want.”
taz.fragt Laurie Anderson im Interview from taz.die tageszeitung on Vimeo.
I am frankly four-square against dictatorships, whether corporate, religious, or of the proletariat. Democracies are messy. Ours is in its adolescent stage, uncertain it will reach adulthood. Maybe it will; maybe it won’t. Our poor species! To have to hold so much contradiction, the paradox of embodying such extreme opposites of good and bad. Personally I would vote for Democratic Socialism. I tried to. It didn’t work out this time. Maybe it will next time; maybe it won’t.
The famous activist and Anarchist Emma Goldman wrote:
“At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.”
There are currently tremendous dangers and opportunities. It’s always been this way. The particulars of now are ours. How we hold it, treat ourselves and each other, will mean everything. Whatever the outcome.
5 thoughts on “Me, Lisa, Laurie, and Emma…”
Good one, Gayle! Reminds me of a poem written by a member of my writing group, the daughter of Communists growing up in the ’30s and ’40s who, like the unhappy judgmental FB poster, thought that those truly dedicated to a cause must allow no room in their boat for “pointless” joy. Her poem was about a birthday party–hers–to which no other children were invited. Only her parents’ friends of their generation were invited to the house to celebrate her birth–a fund-raiser for some good cause or other, with specific request that no presents be brought for the birthday girl.
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Thanks for commenting Anita. That sounds like a powerful poem. I’m sure a lot of children of true believers of every stripe (especially religious or politically “religious”) suffered this kind of snuffing out of joy. So tragic. I 100% agree with Emma Goldman. In the 60s, we had enough drugs (mostly marijuana, but also mescaline, etc) and the newly found freedom of “free sex” not to fall into joylessness, but that didn’t keep severe judgementalism in the form of guilt-tripping from coming into play. We were allowed to “play” and “celebrate” in whichever were the ways the leaders of any given group thought appropriate. I was subjected to it, but never entirely submitted. Still I was affected in a negative way, doubting myself, feeling guilty, feeling not enough. But I also didn’t think they were right. So I never joined.
Emma Goldman. Perfect quote. Lisa’s too. And love your perspective.
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Thanks Sue! It’s good to know one’s not alone, especially when under unfair attack. xo, g
So much self- righteousness.
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