As Ye Sow…

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It’s been another rough week with two mass shootings, hundreds of Latinx kids returning home from school in Mississippi yesterday to find their parents taken by ICE, hundreds of kids still in ICE cages and the border, and probably a million other awful things I’m trying to block out right now.

We’re also just past Lammas, deep into the harvest, and I can’t help but think that what we’re reaping now as a country is the bitter fruit of an overdue reckoning with our history we’ve been unwilling to face for four hundred years.

I had taken a break from heavy reading to catch up on a bunch of novels I’ve been wanting to get to.

[When I spot a novel that looks interesting, I pop it onto my Amazon wish list, which really functions as a “to read” list. Periodically, I open up my local public library’s Libby app and search to see if they have any of my “to read” picks available as ebooks. I put maybe 5-10 on hold – or check them out and download them immediately, if they’re available – and then get little presents from Past Me when I get that email notification that my ebook has become available and is waiting for me to download it. But maybe that’s just me…]

But eventually you have to get back to the work of reading Serious Shit That Will Make You Think, which I have, with:

  • Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race
  • Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness
  • Robin D’Angelo’s White Fragility

All three have me thinking about the United States’ unexamined original sin of racism. The chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost, only because this is the US, the people who are suffering are mostly people of color.

One thing that Metzl’s book makes crystal clear, though, is that the policy choices white voters support because they’re afraid of black and brown people (unlimited gun purchases for everyone! open carry everywhere!), or because they’re resentful that black and brown people might possibly get a piece of a public good (well-funded public education, affordable health insurance) HURT WHITE PEOPLE, TOO.

Metzl looks at guns in Missouri, the ACA in Tennessee, and public education in Kansas, and clearly and persuasively documents the ways white people can be persuaded to die, literally TO DIE, to prop up white supremacy.

And, per D’Angelo, when you look at all the ways we’re utterly unwilling to engage around race and racism, it’s not surprising. Every time we white people define racism as only deliberate, individual actions directed by particular evil white people who are motivated by personal animus at particular people of color, we decrease our chances of being able to understand white supremacy as a systemic problem that requires a systemic approach to rectify. Every time “progressive” white people claim to be color-blind, we invalidate the lived experiences of the people of color who are unlucky enough to be subject to our bullshit – experiences that are VASTLY different than ours, that are likely hidden to us in our daily lives, that we can only hope to begin to understand if those people of color are willing to risk trusting us enough to share them, that they will 100% NOT trust anyone who “doesn’t see color” with.

As Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, do better.”

So how can we white people begin to know better?

Oluo can help. To quote the National Book Review review: “[Oluo] explicitly raises questions and provides talking points and counter-arguments for both people of color and white people.”

She is firm, and unsparing, but speaks from a place of love. Ever thought, “But I don’t know what to do?”Oluo gets specific.

And no matter how long you’ve been doing this work – whether it’s decades or “this book is the first thing I’m picking up” – you will learn, and begin to know better, so you can start doing better, which is the first step toward healing the wound that’s been suppurating for generations.

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

We Resist Every Day

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What have you been doing lately to resist?  It’s important to do something, no matter how small it may seem, to fight back against the Nazis.

You can go to Postcards4VA and help flip Virginia blue THIS YEAR.  Then we can pass the ERA.

You can demonstrate.  At an ICE facility, at your state capitol, at your representative’s local office.

And now, while legislators are home for the August recess, is a very good time to find out where they’ll be and go see them.  Tell them to pass gun safety laws, to impeach Trump, to protect the environment.

You can follow Byron Ballard’s advice and “pick three.”  Pick the three issues that matter most to you and work on them, knowing that others will pick other issues.

You can volunteer at your local school, library, clinic, or animal shelter.

You can plant a tree.

You can buy local food.

You can visualize the world you want and then do one thing each day to bring that world into being.

And, always, you can take care of yourself.  Sleep.  Hydrate.  Do your spiritual practice.  Go for a walk.  Have sex.

We need you.

Picture found here.

Everyday Historians

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The National Archives is looking for help transcribing documents related to the Suffragettes.  It’s important work.

The Library of Congress has already scanned the original documents into a digital library, but if you’ve ever tried to use a computer to search for a word in a scanned source, you know that it’s not easy to do—especially since decades-old documents often make for blurry scans that are difficult to decipher. So last year, the Library of Congress launched a crowdsourcing platform called By the People, asking the public to help type up written documents word for word, which will make it easier to find and read original sources.

The materials sound fascinating.

The Library of Congress’s collection includes letters, speeches, newspaper articles, personal diaries, and other materials from famed suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well as lesser-known activists. It includes accounts from Carrie Chapman Catt, who took over for Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, about her experiences at the Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Rome. It also includes letters from actor and mountain-climber Anna E. Dickinson illuminating the familial conflict that arose after her sister committed her to a Pennsylvania asylum. And there’s the diaries of Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women, which shed light on minorities’ laborious suffrage struggles and her own dealings with Civil Rights figures like W.E.B. Du Bois.

This would be a great project for history classes, scout troops, a family history project, or even a way for a coven to honor ancestors as Samhein approaches.

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

This is deep — and fun.

The Magical Battle for America 8.4.19

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Now’s probably a good time to remind everyone to check/refresh the wards on your home or wherever you do this work.  (No, really.  You really need to do this.)  Be sure that you’re rested, grounded, and in a comfortable position.  Maybe wrap up in a blanket or cloak and grasp an herb, stone, or talisman that matters to you.  Grow your roots, send them deep into the soil, let them intertwine and grow small hairs to attach to the mycelia in your own landbase.

Breathe.

Anchor yourself firmly to your landbase.  Does your landbase have anything to tell you today?  Notice a small detail that will call you back when this working is finished.

Ground and center.  Cast a circle.

Breathe.

As you move to our American plain on the astral plane, you can see again the safe hillock where you do your work.  You can see the five giant banners, shining in the sky: Walden Pond, the Underground Railroad, the Cowboy, the Salmon, and Lady Liberty.  Do they seem more defined since we began our work? Do they have anything special to tell you this week?

For a few moments, just sit on your hillock and allow yourself to become comfortable.  This place should be feeling very real to you by now; we’ve been working together to create it for months and months.  What’s become familiar to you?  A tuft of prairie grass?  Buffalo off in the distance?  The scent of sand carried on the wind?  You’ve been involved in a months-long magical working here, joined with magic workers from across the globe.  Feel your connection to this place on the astral plane. It is always here for you, always a source of strength.

This week we have seen several more “mass shootings,” — attacks by white supremacists.  Inflamed and radicalized by Trump’s racism and his fascist rallies and encouraged by Fox and sites on the internet, these men arm themselves with weapons of destruction and attack American citizens going about their business — shopping, worshipping, going out for dinner, watching a movie.

As you stand on your hillock, call to your favorite Trickster.  It might be Hermes, or Coyote, or Raven.  It might be Brother Fox, or Bugs Bunny, or Puck.  American Tricksters may be particularly appropriate for this working.  Watch as the Trickster becomes three-dimensional and you can see them in every detail.  You may want to do a trick of your own to catch Trickster’s attention.  Do you know a joke you can tell them, a card trick, a silly song?  Once you have Trickster’s attention, ask them to interfere in the plans of men who want to attack us.  Maybe their cars need to develop engine trouble, their computers fail when they go to post their “manifestos,” their guns jam when they try to use them.  Maybe they need to make a wrong turn, develop a bad summer cold, or get arrested for a broken headlight.  Maybe they need to be turned in at the last minute by one of their confederates.  Maybe they need to have their credit card rejected when they go to buy bullets.  However Trickster works, whatever intricate plan Trickster devises, the end result is that the fascist is unable to carry out his plan.

As you see Trickster’s magic working, thank them for their aid.  Although you may never hear about the plots that Trickster foils, let them know that you are grateful.

Slowly, come down from your hillock and begin to walk back to your own landbase.

Open your eyes.  Rub your arms and face.  Notice the detail that you selected to call yourself back.  Drink something, maybe mango juice or coconut water.  Have something to eat, maybe some popcorn or watermelon.  Maybe you can set up a small altar dedicated to Trickster.  (If so, please post a picture!!)  You may want to repeat this working several times this week.  You may want to journal about it.  Are you inspired to make any art? If you’re willing, please share in comments what happened and how this working went.

 

My World and Welcome to It

 

Happy Birthday, James Baldwin

James-Baldwin

Had he lived this long, James Baldwin would have been 95 today.

I had purchased the (very nice) Library of America edition of his collected essays in print form several years ago, but I hadn’t read them until the fall of 2016, and I have to say that James Baldwin saved me. I would not have made it through that difficult election season or its disastrous conclusion (and aftermath) without him.

His wisdom and incisiveness showed me how to face evil without fear, to call it by its true name with courage, to propose remedies from a place of love, and above all to maintain hope, not from a place of foolishness or denial or lying to myself to try to protect my own comfort, but from a clear-eyed assessment of the disaster and an unwavering commitment to do what lies in my power to fix it.

A few favorite lines from Notes of a Native Son:

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law. It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace, but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep own heart free of hatred and despair.

And again, speaking to white supremacy:

no black man can hope ever to be entirely liberated from internal warfare – rage, dissembling, and contempt having inevitably accompanied his first realization of the power of white men. What is crucial here is that, since white men represent in the black man’s word so heavy a weight, white men have for black men a reality which is far from being reciprocal; and hence all black men have toward all white men an attitude which is designed, really, either to rob the white man of the jewel of his naivete, or else to make is cost him dear….the American vision of the world – which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces of human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white – owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and black men a human separation which could not be bridged. It is only now beginning to be borne in on us – very faintly, it must be admitted, very slowly, and very much against our will – that this vision of the world is dangerously inaccurate; and perfectly useless. For it protects our moral high-mindedness at the terrible expense of weakening our grasp of reality. People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

From Nobody Knows My Name:

The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves, but we can only do this if we are willing to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here….In a society much given to smashing taboos without thereby managing to be liberated from them, it will be no easy matter.

Also from that same collection:

Northerners indulge in an extremely dangerous luxury. They seem to feel that because they fought on the right side during the Civil War, and won, they have earned the right merely to deplore what is going on in the South, without taking any responsibility for it; and that they can ignore what is happening in Northern cities because what is happening in Little Rock or Birmingham is worse…This perpetual justification empties the heart of all human feeling. The emptier our hearts become, the greater will be our crimes…the South is not merely an embarrassingly backward region, but a part of this country, and what happens there concerns every one of us….The country will not change until it re-examines itself and discovers what it really means by freedom. In the meantime, generations keep being born, bitterness is increased by incompetence, pride, and folly, and the world shrinks around us. It is a terrible, and inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.

In speaking of the American illusion (one might say delusion) that everyone around the world respects and envies us as the richest, most powerful country in the world, Baldwin writes:

I am very often tempted to believe that this illusion is all we have left of the great dream that was to have become America; whether this is so or not, this illusion certainly prevents us from making America what we say we want it to be.

Writing on desegregation, Baldwin notes:

Any real change involves the breakup of the world as one has known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free – he has set himself free – for higher dreams, for greater privileges….There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.

Baldwin famously disdained what he called “unquestioning patriotism,” which is the source of perhaps his most well-known quote:

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

And perhaps one of his most hopeful quotes, speaking to the white mobs that rioted against integration in the South:

these mobs fill, so to speak, a moral vacuum…the people who form these mobs would be very happy to be released from their pain, and their ignorance, if someone arrived to show them the way. I would be inclined to agree with this, simply from what we know of human nature. It is not my impression that people wish to become worse; they really wish to become better but very often do not know how.

Visionary, intellectual, patriot, critic, hero, archetype. Thank you for your many gifts to us in your too-short 63 years on this earth.

I think we have to look grim facts in the face because if we don’t, we can never hope to change them….The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.

I could continue to go on, but I want to close with:

A country is only as good – I don’t care now about the Constitution and the laws, at the moment let us leave those things aside – a country is only as strong as the people who make it up and the country turns into what the people want it to become. Now this country is going to be transformed. It will not be transformed by an act of God, but by all of us, by you and me. I don’t believe any longer that we can afford to say that is it entirely out of our hands. We make the world we’re living in and we have to make it over.

Image found here.

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