Fostering Compassionate Conversations Within Our Community
by Maria Corse
I have always felt completely detached from the obligatory observance of holidays and balk at the conspicuous consumption dedicated to giving thanks, being generous, recognizing those who served, remembering the dead, celebrating another turn of the calendar, or even planting trees. Why can't we be: grateful, unselfish, good to the earth, cognizant of those who have come before, honor family, and celebrate life every single day, instead of when we are told to?
On this Thanksgiving Day, I felt especially distanced, disgusted, and disheartened. I had no desire to observe tradition, recognize achievements, or stuff my face while there are multitudes, here in the US and worldwide, who do not have the luxury of knowing where their next meal is coming from, never mind, where they will lay their depleted, abused, cold, and exhausted bodies at the end of the day. I refuse to celebrate when hundreds of thousands in my own country are facing a bleak future of segregation, hostility, violence, inequity, and injustice, because of the color of their skin, their religion, their gender identity, their environmental ethics, and their sexual preferences.
I struggle to understand what I can do to help --- sign petitions, make phone calls to our representatives, donate to far-flung social justice causes, march on Washington--- these are all tangible, legitimate actions that are being offered as solutions. Somehow it still feels hollow --- not enough (too little, too late).
Poverty and inequity have been the driving force behind race (not an accurate word, but I am using it anyway) relations forever, while the elitist, classist, and upper social echelon have manipulated and controlled the masses through propaganda, wealth, power, and outright lies. This is not new to this election cycle folks. In the past, we were just a little more blind, comfortable, and unintentionally obtuse, but to be fair, this time around (between media inaccuracies and shameless disregard for valid newsworthy stories, as well as careless social media memes, and, blatant, over the top attention seekers) it was pretty hard not to notice.
So back to, what can I do that feels right, legitimately helpful, and caring? Whenever I consider positive action, my resolve always come back home, to the North Country. I have continuously maintained that change has to come from the bottom --- where, together, we can systematically disturb the status quo, create uncomfortable situations, and make so much noise that they (those in power) can not ignore us any longer.
Do you see this problem as clearly as I do? We all need to work together to brainstorm and implement creative solutions towards a future based on unity and peace, not, division and discord. We are being distracted and artificially divided, however, by party politics, public bathroom laws, coffee cups, celebrity tantrums and other petty invented controversies as well as apathy, flagrant misinformation, and invented hostility, instead of uniting to bring unbiased understanding, non-judgment, kindness, and equity to the table. Grass Roots action and change can only come when we are all awake to the notion that we are all being played – big time!
This is when my naiveté is probably the most evident --- my personal answer to this conundrum will always come down to individual interactions --- one at a time --- creating meaningful connections through conversation, and educating by modeling positive, open-minded, empathetic behavior. Every single day presents opportunities to be kind and gracious, listen carefully, do good work that matters, show appreciation, express gratitude, and love, love, love! All incredibly simple actions, yet, so very hard!
These are just a few of earth's stalwart sentinels who have witnessed and withstood human-kind's foibles, greed, and stupidity.
This blog is a new forum where I can process and write about my personal emotions, views, ideas, and observations in a way that will encourage myself and my readers to work towards positive change. I chose this title with the clear realization that rooting has two very different meanings: we will cheer for change, invite it, welcome it, and embrace it, but we also need to go in search of and dig up the mechanisms which will bring real, lasting, empowering, empathetic, uniting, and affirming change to this country.
We were, however, rudely informed that many view change as scary and intimidating, ten days ago, when the presumptive President elect's slogan “Make America Great, Again” was embraced wholeheartedly by the 25% of the United States population who voted for him. To be very clear, this was not a political message inviting constructive change, instead, it was a distinct invitation to go back to a time when: inequality, injustice, and separation for people of color was common place, LBGTQ people had to hide their essential being behind closet doors, and women had no legal rights over their bodies (or property) and were expected (no ordered) to stay at home to be subservient and obedient to their husbands.
With one long sweeping motion --- hate and antipathy have been legitimized, normalized, and institutionalized. The segment of the population who actively practice racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny, and the portion of the demographic who have felt unheard, misunderstood, and hurt, as well as the folks who are on the “losing” side of this election have all been given explicit permission to rise up and attack anyone who is different (in any way) or offers a dissenting opinion. Innocent people who are simply living their lives have (and will) become the victims of indiscriminate violence all in the name of political affiliation.
Plainly stated, I believe that embracing and standing with either the left or right leaning faction, to the exclusion of all other philosophies and ideas, is a thinly veiled excuse to make judgmental observations to align ourselves with others who have a similar world views, which then provides comprehensive justification for creating the other (the enemy).
In reality, the few polarizing points that are on opposing sides of this giant yawning societal divide are not, in the accurate sense, part of any true political doctrine. They are, instead, personal or religious beliefs that have been adopted by the parties to create a greater sense (obligation) toward morality, virtue, and artificial division. These issues simply do not have a justifiable rationale for being part of the electoral process or conversation.
Positive change can only come when we all actively search (dig) for and recognize that essential “human – ness” (alikeness) in each other instead of labeling, judging one another, and seeking the disparity.
We will all win when we can drop the rhetoric and pandering, educate ourselves with the facts about the real issues (poverty, greed, artificial status, environmental degradation, etc.), engage in affirming, respectful conversation (with everyone), and work together to fight for our common desire for: a safe place to live and raise our children, enough food to eat, the comforts of home and family, and to merely be loved, understood, and validated for who we are.
May it be so ---
I write to process, and, then, express my personal emotions, hopes, fears, anger, and observations, which are then broadcast to the world via the Deep Root Center Blog. This past week, I came to realize that many of those things I have to say, as an individual, are not necessarily appropriate to articulate as the voice of an organization, especially a not-for-profit, educational entity that welcomes, expects, and respects a variety of perspectives from our student members, their families, our staff, volunteers, community collaborators, and supporters.
Stay tuned as this forum takes shape as a place where we can share our deepest feelings and fondest wishes for this community and beyond. I request that comments remain, kind, constructive, and without judgement. This will remain a safe place where everyone can feel welcome to express their concerns and desires.
Our one rule at Deep Root Center will be applied here as well: Respect yourself, each other, and this space.
I look forward to future conversations that will bring us a closer to understanding each other.
Maria Corse is the founder and executive director of Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning in Canton, NY.