I Don’t Want a Revolution.
I used to. Definitely for all of my 20s. During all of the anti-Iraq war marches I participated in in San Francisco, during my work with a low-income black women’s organization my first couple of years in the Bay Area, when Bush won the first and second times, when stories hit the San Francisco Chronicle of massage parlors being full of trafficked Asian women, and many other moments in between.
I was like, “let’s do this mutha-fuckin’ thing.”
But now, 8ish years later, I don’t want a revolution. Because I know what revolution actually means: violence and blood and destruction and death. Which is why I find it so interesting to hear my spiritual friends call for it. I wonder, do you understand that a true revolution means you and your children may die?
I know some people will come back at me for this – “but it’s what has to happen in order for change to occur” “it’s the only way things have changed in history” “some blood has to be shed for the greater good”. When people say the last one, I highly doubt they are envisioning their children shedding blood; they are envisioning someone else’s children doing so, or not really contemplating it at all.
And yes, I understand that many people have already died, that many live in fear everyday for their lives, and I carry that heaviness in my heart all the time. I recognize immensely my white, straight privilege. I also understand that as a woman, I can’t end patriarchy without men coming on board. This is true for every other division in our society.
If we have evolved at all, we can believe that there is a different path. Because yes, revolutions have led to change in the past, but those have been temporary, at best, and a lot of life lost in the process. Then the “other side” comes back and massacres, having their own revolution. Or, the original leaders of the revolution become the rulers they so despised. And back and forth it goes, never really getting us anywhere.
(This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up. This doesn’t mean we should quiet our voices. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step out to protect those threatened with violence or hate. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protest.)
No, I believe that if we want humanity to continue to exist, no matter how hard and painful it is, we have to seek out common ground. We have to really listen to each other. We have to show up and support those who feel disenfranchised, whether they are on “our side” or the “other side”. We have to find a way to heal our differences. It’s actually a whole lot harder work than a revolution. It’s changing from within.
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[Note: I wrote this two days after the election. I had felt a glimpse of understanding at that point. Since then, I’ve ricocheted to all ends of the spectrum: terror, sadness, anger, compassion, fear that we’ll never be anywhere near peace, that there is too much division we can’t even fully grasp. I don’t know the answer. All I know is that I have re-affirmed and upped my commitment to lifting women up in all the ways I can.]
Oh, yesterday, I railed with the best of them. I cried on and off the whole day, puffy face, eyes looking like death. I couldn’t believe that much hate existed in this country. I couldn’t believe people bought into the many lies that have been said about Hillary. I was heartbroken that a woman I very much believed could usher in the initial balancing of the feminine/masculine would not have a chance to do so. I was afraid for all women around the world to witness a man who has openly sexually harassed and possibly raped women become the leader of the United States.
I very much felt like it was us vs. them.
I deeply felt my pain most of the day. I took myself to the movies in the afternoon because I needed a break from the sorrow, but the rest of the day, I did little except for sit in it. And that’s the way it should be.
We are so quick to try and jump over our anger, our grief, forgetting it is a natural part of the human experience. I saw people post on FB to look at the bright side, don’t be a sore loser, rise up in revolution. I wondered, as I often do these days, why we are never allowed to just sit with the experience? That is how it moves through us; that is how we refill our coffers. Everyone processes grief differently, but we need to respect and allow people to have that process.
Yesterday, I felt everything that I have worked for in my adult life means nothing. That women will never be free. That I won’t, in my lifetime, see true respect for women, that we, along with all people of color, will ever experience a true feeling of safety.
Sitting with my pain yesterday allowed me to wake up today and not only reaffirm my commitment to lifting women up, but to understand even more deeply that this is what I am meant to do in this life. The plight of ALL women, no matter the color, class, or nation they come from, has always captured my heart and moved me like nothing else.
What each of us can do now is choose something that moves you like nothing else, that impacts your community, and dedicate yourself to that. This may be volunteering at your children’s school; helping out at your church or synagogue or mosque; doing whatever work Planned Parenthood needs you to do; gathering your sisters in healing circles. It might mean teaching your kids to speak up when a child says to another, “leave my country.” It may be that if you are white, you stand in front of people of color at rallies in order to protect them; it may be that you have a daily practice of sitting with and sending out healing energy to all those who need it. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it comes from your heart and is for the greater good.
Limit yourself to a couple of things you can really do, so you don’t get overwhelmed and panicky and then say, “I can’t do any of it.” As human beings, particularly living in a society with so many things going on all the time, this happens too easily. Get ahead of the game this time around.
That’s what we need, and that’s what we can do to move from within to the world beyond our own flesh. My prayer is that this is what saves us from a bloody revolution, what truly moves humanity to a safe space for us all.
[Note: Adding to the sentiments above, where I find myself a week after the election is less about blame of the “other”, and more imploring those who consider themselves Democrats, progressives, leftist, or that simply believe Muslims should feel safe, Black Lives Matter as much as whites, the disabled are just as important as the abled, that Jews shouldn’t have to worry about the return of their worst living nightmare, that women have autonomy over their own body and that body remains safe from sexual assault, to band together and stop focusing on the things that drive us apart.
This is why we keep losing elections; this is why we keep losing people across this great land. Our infighting only shifts our focus from what really matters – protecting those most vulnerable (which is a LOT of people now). So please, let go of whether you think the safety pin is a good idea (and please recognize you are shaming a lot of people who are trying to figure out how to help when you pick at the nuances of this act), drop “Bernie would have won”, watch your words to make sure you aren’t spiritually bypassing and negating a whole lot of people’s experiences in the process. What we need now is a focused approach to limiting the harm over the next four years. It’s time to set aside what we want to see individually, to look at what’s best for the collective.]