Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Angry, Yet Still Connected: Searching for answers in a world of enemies

By Diane Silver

I've been reading Carla Goldstein's fascinating columns on what she has dubbed "spiritual activism," and find myself both thrilled and frustrated. In her third column, she explores the concept of interdependence.

I agree with everything she says, although I worry that her to-do list is so imposing it will frighten people off.

What frustrates me, though, is what she doesn't discuss. That is the very real problem of dealing with my dependence on and connections to my enemies.

I would love to believe that I live in a world where no one wants to hurt me and my family, but as a lesbian, feminist, progressive and an American, I know that isn't true.

Let me count just a few of the ways that I and many others face enemies: As a lesbian, I face thousands (millions?) of people who want to deny me equal rights under the law. They fight every attempt I make to gain fairness for myself and my family.

When my son was young, some of them would have even taken him away and orphaned him for no other reason than the fact that I'm a lesbian. They blame me for society's ills. Some of them spew such hateful rhetoric that it can be used to justify any act or any attack against me and my family.

As a feminist and progressive, I'm often accused of being a traitor or worse. As an American, I am subject to attack by terrorists who don't care who they kill simply to make a political point or to get back at the real sins of our government.

Having enemies scares me.

Having enemies makes me want to run and hide.

Having enemies makes me want to smash them before they smash me.

And yet...

I know full well that we breathe the same air. We walk the same Earth, our feet touch the same soil. In my relatively small college town, some of us even shop at the same grocery store. We want the same things such as happiness and prosperity of body and soul and the freedom to live as we wish. We want our kids to go to good schools. We want them to grow up in a healthy country full of abundance.

The truth is that I really don't want to destroy my enemies. I simply don't want them to destroy me.

I even wish I could think of a better name -- the word "enemy" is so hateful and frightening. Using the word makes me think that I have no other choice than to destroy them before they "get" me. Must I grind the Religious Right into dust, so that my family can survive? Must I -- represented by the U.S. government and military -- kill, maim and torture thousands in the Middle East to stay safe?

And if I do grind "them" (those dastardly bad guys) into dust, whether politically or through actual murder, can I destroy them all, or will some survive to seek revenge against me?

From where I sit, the real trick of interdependence is figuring out how to get past my fear and theirs. In a world of enemies (and in their minds, I am most decidedly their enemy), what can we do? How can we see that we are all on the same side, no matter what theology or philosophy we preach? How do we make peace without surrendering?

At this moment, the toughest task we face is how to make peace. How can we bring the Middle East together? How can we end terrorism without creating more terrorists through our own violence? How can we make peace in America's culture war without destroying either side?

I am hungry for peace because I am truly tired of fighting.

PHOTO: Carla Goldstein

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