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!
Maria Corse is the founder and executive director of Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning in Canton, NY.