Appalachia, Allegheny, Chicago, Merrimac, Niagara, Potomac. These places as well as geographical formations of mountains, lakes, rivers and tributaries all named by First Peoples.
It strikes me often as I travel throughout the USA that these places and formations are named by people who no longer inhabit these spaces. The lack of this presence speaks volumes to me.
If we are white, many of our ancestors came here fleeing religious persecution, poverty, violence, lack of opportunity in the homeland. Why is it that often those who flee oppression often inflict it on others?
This is the sad and buried truth of our history. That even those who espoused the beliefs and values of individual liberty, pursuit of happiness and the right to be self governing assisted and often took the lead in eradicating the indigenous peoples and engaged in the evil of slavery, building the agricultural wealth of the nation on the backs of brown skins.
What it comes down to in our country is who was given the supposedly God given rights of life, liberty, self governance and the pursuit of happiness and who had to fight for these rights? Women. African Americans. Native Americans. People with disabilities. Less obvious are those who live in abject poverty. The marginalization of class.
My own eyes were opened greatly having a daughter with spina bifida, a neural tube birth defect that affects mobility, bowel and bladder function. I didn’t have the awareness that the world was created by able bodied people. I didn’t know that even with the ADA in 1990 (Riley was born 10 years later) that it would be challenge to access playgrounds (lack of ramps, mulch difficult to navigate, etc…..). With 2 other moms of kids with differing abilities, a lot of pie and wine, some more moms and community support, we wrote grants and raised $250.000 so our kids could play alongside their peers. Their peers gain from this as well. We all have much to learn from each other and we create those opportunities to be together and enrich each other’s lives when we build bridges instead of walls.
I hear well meaning people say things like, “I don’t see disability.” Or, “I don’t see color.” This spiritual bypass is not helpful. If you are not willing to see and then help remove barriers that prevent people from fully participating in society, pursuing life, liberty and happiness and their right to self governance, then you are part of the problem. I cannot know what it is like to be my daughter but I can seek to have my eyes opened to the environmental barriers and to the sometimes barely concealed perceptions of people when they see a young person in a wheelchair. (“Oh, what a shame she has to use a wheel chair.”….. Are you fucking kidding me? This wheel chair gives her freedom to go where she cannot walk! )
We cannot completely know what it is like to be in each other’s shoes, but we can seek to understand, to be in inquiry. Where we are now in this country is nothing new to people of color. To those who are first generation. If we have largely been immune to this, it is time now to wake up. To listen deeply to those who have already walked this walk. To understand that in crisis lies the opportunity to show up. For human rights. For the planet. For all that is decent. Listen to one another right now. Deeply listen with a grounded, connected presence and an open heart without your own attachments to ideology.
This is the seat of mercy. The heart of compassion. Dear Ones. It may seem like we are surrounded by the worst of humanity and that may be true but please know that Love which promises to never leave us without comfort, without hope is still here. It has never left us. It never will. Connect to this love through your tears. Ground in this peace which defies all understanding. Breathe into your own capacity for infinite love. Love beyond your personal relationships, but love as the essence of who you are, who we all are. This is the space where we find Unity. This is the space where we breath in and breath out God. Please Dear Ones. Show up here. Let’s meet each other here in the heartspace.