What’s interesting is the fact that two of the four portraits by area artists featured on the cover of the Arts & Culture section of my local paper are of white women with a hand over her mouth. What are the odds? Finally, it seems, we are all standing together on the threshold of being able to name out loud what has been churning in our bellies for centuries!
This is the first story I write, after dozens of drafts over the years, that has substance one can sink their figurative teeth into. It’s a story of stories that can get really ugly and hard to hear. It’s a story of the end of self recrimination, the beginning of the end of a cognitive dissonance so foggy that one forgets they had once been in search of clarity.
This story begins on “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus bridge—or the Montgomery Bus Boycott Bridge—in Selma Alabama. We know that the bereaved U.S. Representative John Lewis was beaten on this bridge, along with others marching arm in arm, for their civil rights and for the rights of all people. They wanted to be treated equally, with respect, under the law and in community. We know that he passed this summer after a life long battle for justice and a recent battle with pancreatic cancer. As Bernice King, a participant paying her respects to Rep. Lewis as he was carried across that bridge one final time is quoted saying, “the most astounding thing about Congressman Lewis being left for dead on that bridge is how he got up both physically and spiritually. When he recovered, he recovered without a trace of bitterness or hostility or without losing hope in our Democracy.”
I wanted to find a new bridge that could stand for truth and reconciliation as powerfully as this bridge has stood for civil rights. I found the newly constructed Golden Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam. When I look at this bridge and see two giant hands holding a peopled arch against the Annamite mountains global ecoregion I appreciate its capacity to fill one with absolute awe. This level of awe is needed in all of us in order to transition from the fog of greed to the clear skies of peace; to consciously and collectively bear the atrocities wrought by American greed and to consciously and collectively reconcile these truths.
The manufactured atrocities of colonization are and have always been immoral and reprehensible. They are also tangible, at least on the surface. So, when we reflect on how long these atrocities have continued largely unabated, growing more sophisticated and covert like omnipresent mindfucks, we can appreciate the fact that the intangible impacts of colonization go unspoken and remain swirling around us like dark ominous skies.
White women have been up close and personal with the white men architects of colonization present and past, for “better or worse till death do us part” and have covered over ugly truths; buried it deep in the white mind psyche. I tried to look up rates of cosmetic surgery to get a sense of the rates and demographics of this artifice and learned that death by plastic surgery is a big thing. I stopped investigating. There are things we don’t want to know about. It’s all too damn much.
I have listened to journalists like Juan Gonzalez ask questions about why white women vote for Trump in such large numbers. My answer to Juan is that the demographic of white middle aged women who are holding the signs and organizing the rallies have, like all white supremacists, had to choose between economic security and values integrity. Values integrity, like our waste streams, seem to just go away while losing economic security is an immediate hard punch in the face. White women voting for Trump must reconcile with the fact that their financial priorities outweigh their values integrity and that by and large, they have allowed the patriarchal wizardry to speak for them. The voice of her husband or boss or priest may dictate her actions of consequence, not like the latest paint color on the walls, and she has likely lost or never had the capacity to voice opinions of her own within the larger body politic.
There are far too many loose threads to this story to weave together in this moment. But we can hold the frays and carefully inspect which yarns have the most weight. We can acknowledge the desire for clarity, we can proclaim the will to speak a truth alongside confrontations and emotional assaults by myriad overbearing powers constructed to suppress, silence, and tamp down that truth. And we can internally reconcile our feelings, intuitions and knowings of truth. Journaling is a true friend in any time of need, 24/7 day or night.
But I will share a little anecdote. I attempted to share ideas for this story with a male friend. I established a sense of his willingness to listen and shared the first thought about bridges; not about the details of the two bridges I was clear about commenting on or the significance of these or any other bridges, just the word bridge. 30 minutes of sidetracks, amusing distractions and interruptions later I noticed I had not voiced or felt resonance about one real thought for this story. More loose threads.
You see, the brain wants to go from point A to point Z—and is even happy to settle for point B. When the brain needs to follow a jangled thorny path all over the alphabet, it may get lost and confused altogether forgetting the location of point A. The capacity of the brain to follow the jangled mess of interruptions, ironically, builds a level of skillfulness that satisfies. And it is this pseudo satisfaction that allows one to tolerate sustained cognitive dissonance—or even perpetuate and self-inflict this form of emotional gaslighting.
Without community in whom one can finish up these loose threads of the mind-body, the literal capacity to think straight erodes. From this point, one becomes an easy target for sophisticated media manipulation—as explained in The Social Dilemma about how Google and other media megaliths are designed to enslave us by extracting our predictive behavior and selling us to the highest bidder (not recommended viewing for young children or other vulnerable populations).
I write about vulnerability a lot. It’s one of my superpowers. I’ve been writing a post each month on the Inner Fortune blog and my May piece was about The Menopause, or men-oh-pause. Hormone shifts are an intricately complex ecosystem that mirrors the natural world in amazing ways. The ability to continue learning from the body is never ending and ever present. I highly recommend this quest as a top hobby because it helps the feminine voice in all of us get stronger.
Womanhood is making a comeback. Imagine that! 50% of the population has been collecting dust on the shelf or simmering on the back burner for centuries and the feminine, having been battered and bruised in undeniably tangible but also excruciatingly invisible ways, is standing back up, stronger and wiser for all the emergent capacity building efforts. Our leaders are Black and Indigenous People Of Color.
The blue wave crashing over America from the east and west coasts has to wend its way through small streams and shallow brooks across the Midwest where pipelines matter more than waterways. It is utterly astounding how much energy the BIPOC communities expended to get Trump out of office—to get the greedy, manipulative liar away from the bull horn at the top of the mountain of American capitalism. Joe Biden may not be the best person for the job, but Kamala Harris is there, Senator Sanders is still there, Senator Warren is there, so are other presidential candidates Senator Gillibrand, Representative Gabbard, Senator Klobuchar, Representative Tim Ryan, Senator Booker, and now Senator Bennett is joined in Colorado by Senator Hickenlooper. Governors Steve Bullock and Jay Inslee are also ready to bring some of that west coast wave into the midlands.
These and so many others in congress (both capital C and lowercase) are aware of our brokenness and, undeterred, able to not just undo the “unnatural” disasters of the soon-to-be previous administration but to speak the truth and to begin to reconcile the centuries of emotional scars across America and beyond.
I live in a small white town that has never atoned for its colonization of indigenous land. And I am on an anti-racism committee seeking to speak that truth and do what it can to initiate reconciliation.
Ultimately we all need to cross the bridge from the mind erasure of unfettered greed and worship of business (busyness) to the other side of community rebuilding and the fierce stewardship of nature; our mother.
Middle aged white women are vilified, hystericized and manipulated in truly deplorable ways. But it is easy to overcome victim consciousness (that state one may slip into when reality sinks in) when we band together and listen not to the greedy, extractive, immature system attempting to short circuit our brains, but to the gentle, steady voice of truth inside all of us—a voice entirely in concert with Mother Nature.
I end this story with an ancient story as told by Winona LaDuke (twice former Green Party vice presidential candidate). This story is about the reverence for womanhood held sacred by our elders of the Apache nation.
“At dawn, the young Apache women begin to dance in the Sunrise Ceremonial, a series of rites that is months in preparation and that takes many days and much love to actualize. The Sunrise Ceremonial is a gift to a young girl from her family, recognizing her passage into womanhood. This ceremony, like many other aspects of Apache life, connects young women, and indeed a people, to an ancient history.”
Perhaps we white people are finally starting to wake up to the truth of religious freedom, after so much pain and suffering. As I mentioned, I live in a small “white” town; the general mindset is to tell the truth but “tell it slant” (lest one be chastised for their lack of decorum—after all, if people don’t really understand what you’re saying they can’t persecute you…). We see where this has taken us.
In this section of Winona’s book, Recovering the Sacred, a sentence of a quotation from Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise, speaking about peace and hanging on by ones fingernails jumped at me: “You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight to our heart.”
And (I shit you not) as I literally just finish writing this story on a gorgeous Saturday morning, my whole street is erupting with full bellied hoots and hollers and pot banging and clapping and drumming and wind chime ringing because the beginning of the change we need in America has just been officially proclaimed.
Hand on my heart, I pledge allegiance to the truth.