Face Me I Face You
The other night my sister and her friend were chattering away in Portuguese about the terrible state of politics in both US and Brazil. My sister has always been passionate and well versed in politics and social justice, and this time was no exception. I followed along as best I could to the discussion, but I am not well versed in either politics or social justice to have anything intelligent to say, English or Portuguese.
The conversation turned to the great inequalities and oppression that blacks face both here and in Brazil. One of our Brazilians friends was sharing her experience and opinion on how blacks in Florida, where she lives, seem rather angry, always aggressive in some way, and cops feel afraid. My sister gave a sweeping history of black slavery here in the US, and how in many respects the treatment has remained the same. So often blacks fear for their lives, and the last person they would call in time of need would be a policeman.
It struck me as a rather hopeless situation, one that is repeated over again in race, gender, and religion. In this current political climate, most seem to live in fear of the other, both justifying their fears and reactions based on a long history and a present reality. Some are more able to live in a bubble to keep the fear "out there", but it lurks, ready to erupt with the latest news cycle. Others live with it daily.
I kept thinking, "what could be different?" In my attempt to stab at a direction, I tried to make a point that if blacks were in power and whites were under oppression, nothing would really change, for it is the nature of things that whoever is in power fights to hold on to their power. It seemed a rather lame thing to say in the context, because that is not how things are and the oppression and discrimination is real. But what is the answer? More anger? More protests? More shootings?
What I really wanted to say is that we all have ways to humiliate, sideline, undermine, and oppress those whom we feel are "less than" us in some way: who do not hold our views, play our game or think and live the way we do. I believe those most liable to oppress, bully, or demand their rights, are those who have been bullied and oppressed and have had their rights taken from them in some way as a child. Black or White, Gay or Straight, Man or Woman. And it is my belief that most of us do not leave childhood unscathed or still live there.
So it got me thinking. Is this part of the problem? We all believe on some level, because of our woundedness, that we are entitled to being treated a certain way and we demand it of others? We hate sitting with our own discomfort so we can't learn what it is trying to teach us, that we already have, by virtue of being human, dignity, love, honor. We don't have to take it from another.
I often told my clients that they were like a Van Gogh painting. If a masterpiece was discovered in an attic covered with muck and grime, it would still have great value because it was created by Van Gogh. Instead, we have a tendency to point out the muck and grime, call it sin, and claim that to be the true image. If we could see, however, that we are ALL created with beauty, majesty and dignity, including our worst enemy (who is simply obscured by the muck), then perhaps we could begin to treat others as the masterpiece they are, remind them of their true image and call them to live out of that.
If we truly believed we are all created Van Goghs, how would that change how we treat those who don't hold our views, play our game or think and live the way we do?