There are few times in history where the realities of the ways people think are condensed into showmanship that creates a wake-up call for many who have believed it just couldn’t get that bad. Typically, people have known to live in a way that preserves certain rhythms as if to agree that certain elements of life are indeed sacrosanct. Some do this to uphold personal values, others, if not their image; still some do the right thing so the larger group can thrive.
Many around us do this with their assessment of clean water, air, personal and national surveillance, medicine, food, education, roadways, parenting and interpersonal/personal mental health practice. We do this when children are born, or when people marry or merge their finances or apply for a job. I am not listing these in order of importance, but I note them as moments where civility or looking out for the common good is to look out for oneself.
The wholesale disagreement with such unspoken pledges to preserve basic rights and decency was on full display on Wednesday, January 6th. The endorsement of overturning the fought for rights within the best system known to functioning government was mocked, and the mockery was led by the leader who has always depended on (and taken advantage of) its functioning.
Entitlement, lack of conscience, harming others to set off a revolution of ideology within which one has thrived, is not just ignorance—it is an endorsed belief that harming what has helped you will in fact justify further entitlement.
Working for decades in the wake of the personal effect of others being endorsed to commit fraudulent, illegal acts against children, spouses, colleagues, friends, siblings, and parents, it is not foreign to me the illness one lives in to excuse such behavior. What is shocking, really more grievous, that is those who are doing so remained unchecked.
Conversely, those emerging from oppression—400 years of it—are held to a standard that requires the swiftest and worse version of penalty in the name of social instability and the existential concern of violence against another person, a business, a neighborhood, a group of oppressors and so on.
Inherent in any abuse scenario is one consistent ingredient—the double standard. The rules apply to me but not to you. I must obey the expectation set before me; thusly, when I fight, I am unappreciative and destructive. However, when the dominant caste fights, it is for “true truth” and reform—it may be even their version of worth and freedom.
While I have seen this happen on a micro level for over two decades as a therapist—seeing the inconsistency of justice for years—it is now operating unchecked and endorsed on a macrolevel. The concern is not that there is a right to vocalize inconsistencies, the issue is that it is federalized. The situation is one where the dominant caste seeks to harm persons or property to demonstrate one thing—their endorsed dominant caste.
“Dehumanization,” writes Isabel Wilkerson in her recent publication, Caste, “is a standard component in the manufacture of an out-group against which to pit an in-group, and it is a monumental task. It is a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own...It’s a process, a programming. It takes energy and reinforcement to deny what is self-evident in another member of one’s own species. A caste system relies on dehumanization to lock the marginalized outside of the norms of humanity so that any action against them is seen as reasonable. No longer a person, a means to an end.” (pages 141, 142).
Societies can be more magnanimous and humanizing when people perceive themselves as having an equal stake in the lives of their fellow citizens.
The sedition and treasonous behavior of this last week was an endorsed fight against democracy and for one purpose—to preserve dominant caste aka whiteness. No one is in fact more protected long term when only one group wins. There may be five minutes where it feels complete or like there is control, but in the rest of the hour one comes to realize we are without required expertise, without specific ideas, and we need another genius that emerges only when one has undergone what is inexplicable or has talents given by God.
Arguably, how much have we lost because a perceived injustice led to a killing that ended a progeny’s life? How much more crippled are we because we decimated each other in the name of protecting a race, a gender, a class, a varna, a religion instead of peering into the range of complexity that may have been announcing itself to assist our understanding and enrich our options?
In my thousands of clinical hours, I have been honored to understand complexity and the vast capacity of a human being. People, whose stories are just a series of being shredded into fine dust, a life so undermined that perhaps no one would ever see or care. It is they who have emerged as the most creative and generous humans I have yet to meet. They have taught me that oppression can create mastery.
That darkness teases a soul into the light of goodness and mercy—forming her into a person of compassion—and often time defined
as genius, generous and utterly remarkable.
To see us continue to throw away people—their dignity and even worse, to use their endured trauma as a reason not to take them seriously—is like throwing away diamonds. To me, it is tossing gold into the ocean. I am aghast and in horror. Because not one part of the storming of the Capital or the ongoing sedition has to do with being inquisitive or problem solving, it has only to do with oppression—throwing diamonds down the drain and gold into the ocean, maintaining dominance, which is self-defined and ultimately dishonoring of everyone involved.
From my experience, people, who when listened to and taken seriously, want to add value to themselves, to the lives of their children and to the world at large. The gold and the diamonds are in each suffering soul.
For those who know me well, the shredding has come in stages I could not have anticipated. Abandoned and used by those who hold the oldest spots of trust, they have shown me that I am of no consequence. However, when I am with those brave enough to face reality, the shredding of ideals, the lost investment of loving sincerely, I am home. It is there that my pain is transformed into meaning and mastery. I recognize this is in no way unique to me. Wounded healers, survivors of oppression and abuse, are our most trustworthy truth tellers.
Therefore, I ask you kindly to take a deep breath and rather than protesting the wrong and evil, give your body a place to reflect. Be in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and suffering and ask yourself—is there something deeper here?
How can I absorb this instead of returning it in kind? Consider the analogy of energy circuits: most of us are relay stations—only a minority are transformers—people who change the electrical charge that passes through them.
Considering that we have the potential to be transformers, perhaps it is important to grasp that larger than love is faith. Faith is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold contradiction, until we are moved by graced to a much deeper level and a much larger frame, where our private pain is not center stage, but a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own.
This means that the history of oppression is felt as it was today. The actions of today perceive the consequence of evil and of good. Pain that transforms does not produce entitlement. It molds us into people who hold the moment in congruency and transcendency.