Saturday, March 22, 2008

Religion, race and politics . . .

I've thought deeply since I blogged the "Damn Mad" post where I swished my brushstroke of anger-- in response to another's rage-- and in the process I splattered Barack Obama and dripped on others by implication. The very act of doing so seems to have aroused equal passion in many, not a bad thing.

Anger festers, if not expressed. Like a dormant volcano, long-held anger catches us by surprise by its seemingly out of proportion explosion. Anyone who has been a recipient of an unexpected tirade can vouch for the "Where did that come from?" feeling. Rev. Wright's comments caught me blind.

Anger spawns anger; it elicits a defensive response, often expressed by an equal explosion of rage. Until the lava cools, neither side is capable of hearing the other, let alone understanding the anger's source. It's a chain reaction. Something lit Wright's fuse, and he lit mine.

Anger is a bi-product of hurt, misunderstanding. It's a cry of pain. A cry of self-preservation. A protective armor.

We all have our armor of course. Those who wear theirs daily, and perhaps sleep in it, carry a heavy load. So much energy is required to drag this coat of mail, that it becomes the first and foremost task of living: protection. Stay angry, stay safe.

My armor is the shield I held up to deflect Reverend Wright's broad-brush painting of white America. I'll lower it now and examine the spattered mess lying at my feet.

The volcano rumbles, still. The race issue needs careful release, lest it erupts in way's we've seen before. Way's that spawn more anger. Ways that kill. Ways that require heavier armor. Ways that perpetuate the divide.

Obama gave a level response. Some say he broad-brushed white Americans. Some wish for greater denunciation of his former pastor. Maybe so. But I'll put my armor down and listen to the message behind the message, that at least was delivered sans visible anger. We have to listen to understand, and understand to solve problems.

Someone asked me pointedly what I've done to help the situation.

Not a lot, but all I can: teaching tolerance to my students, making them aware of the different points of view we must use to view the past and present, raising my kids to not to hate or fear what's different, giving them an outlook that requires they walk a mile in another's shoes . . . it isn't much. We're sheltered here in small town America. But I like to think my small offering is added to those of millions across the country and across the world . . . and I share a dream.


Tere said...

One person at a time . . . teaching others to be better than we are. One person at a time.

Barbara said...

It's OK to feel passionately about something. It just means you are human. And you were not alone in your reaction.

Alice Folkart said...

Ruth, the greenie, tree-huggers have a very good saying: think globally. act locally - that is what you're doing with your kids and your students. One at a time. One step at a time. It seems painfully slow, but that's how we all learned to walk - the greatest achievement of our lives, whether we know it or not.

I worked for more than 20 years in a federally-funded company which had to toe the line on equal opportunity - not only hire minorities, but also the handicapped and train them.

I watched 20 years plus of minority women bussed in from the barrio, with no work ethic, no skills, no education, but lots of native intelligence. I watched them be trained to type and answer phones and use office equipment and dress for work and show up on time and get along with all kinds of people, and I watched this tremendous resource come to life. And now, more than 20 years later, I see half of them productive, earning good salaries, with tremendous self-respect, out of the welfare mill, their kids going to college, and everyone around them valuing them, and I say, sometimes it has to be forced, sometimes it feels awkward for all concerned, and yet, it still succeeds.

Success story in a very big city - these young women did not want to do this, some of them signed up only because it was a condition of their parole, some because their welfare was running out, and now they're leaders.

I'm proud to have been a part of that and to have learned from them, because, by and large, they were smarter than I was.

Leveling the playing field is not easy nor is it comfortable, but it has to be done.


Carter said...

I'm very glad you expressed your anger, Ruth--too many people simply simmer, so the issues that anger most don't get discussed. The discussion you started was one of millions that should go on all over the US. Until we get it all up front, we'll never be able to put it behind us.

Janice Thomson said...

The fact you are willing to listen, to try to understand yet at the same time put forth your own opinions is what we all should be doing Ruth. Your protective armor is the same as anyone else's - once we put that down we talk like decent human beings discussing ways to resolve our differences. And someone has to start it.

Josie said...

Ruth, do you really think tolerance, on both sides, will ever really exist? Is it just wishful thinking? It would be nice to think it could happen, and maybe you're right, it just happens one person at a time. We can only hope, right?

Tim Elhajj said...

Sarah Churchwell had an interesting article on race in American politics. I think she's right on the money.

Carter said...

I agree with Tim, and with Churchwell. The URL he sent doesn't work for me, but this one should for everybody:

She says it's not race, it's economics. I never heard it put as well as she has here, and I urge all to read it.

Bob Sanchez said...

Hey Ruth,

Many of us are quick to anger at our politicians, usually over perceived faults of those we’re inclined not to like anyway. Barack doesn’t wear a flag pin. His pastor is outrageous. Hillary didn’t leave Bill. She's too ambitious. John has a temper. He's too close to Bush.

This is all trivial to me. Nothing makes me angry unless people are getting hurt. 9/11, of course. Enron. IEDs. Pre-emptive wars sold to the public with lies. There is plenty of hurt in the world to be justly angry about, so I’m sorry, but I am too busy being pissed off about the big stuff to worry about whether Barack did or didn’t salute the flag, or Hillary did or didn’t dodge sniper fire, or John had a senior moment and confused Sunni and Shia.

Pauline said...

Anger is a useful emotion if it spurs us to look closely at what made us feel that way, and to seek solutions to that problem.

Right now, as Sarah Churchill so succinctly puts it, "...we will never solve the problem of race in America until we do exactly what Obama suggests: see it for the distraction it is. It was invented to deflect attention away from economic, legal and political inequalities."

That deflection/deception SHOULD make us angry. What can we do about it? Continue to expose it, continue to decry it. Defy it. And eventually, change it. It looks as though you are doing just that, Ruth.

monideepa sahu said...

You've expressed your anger in a n appropriate and controlled way. That's the path to solving the problem, dealing with the cause of anger, and finally towards reconcilliation. Doesn't always happen that way, ut well worth a try.