Sunday, November 15, 2015

Widening the Circle of Belonging

Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook:
Two hours before the joyful performance of 46 kids of our Middle School kids, I heard the news about Paris. We had worked 8 long weeks on the side of life and love and creation of beauty, of feeling power through beauty and music, while teenagers elsewhere had planned horrific and heartless destruction, feeling power through the barrel of a gun. The contrast was stunning. And less we dismiss it too easily as crazed fanatics, those people were kids who nobody took time to love and nurture and care for and give them the life-loving opportunities they deserved. Alongside the grief, let's re-double efforts to care for our children and work tirelessly for social justice, each from our little corner of creation. Recommit ourselves to life and love and light. That's the only response I can imagine in our age of terror, at home (school shootings) and abroad. Feeling the unimaginable grief of the victim's families, I felt our kids singing on their behalf, bringing our little flame of light into the darkness.
One of my friends (Facebook and in real life) responded:
Beautiful, Doug, but I would think that the attackers' families DO love and teach them, but the polar opposite of what we saw w your students last night.
 And that got me thinking, “Could that really be true? Can a parent who teaches a child to hate the other actually feel genuine love for that child? Is that an adequate definition of love?”
I suppose it could be so on some level. I grew up with uncles and aunts who seemed to care for me, but had narrow-minded prejudices about various ethnic groups. But they never taught me to actively hate them and certainly never suggested I should kill them.
At any rate, no reason to split hairs about what true love is. The real issue is cultivating a love and sense of belonging that includes all the others, of widening the circle of who we are taught to belong to. And that includes going beyond people as well to four-legged creatures and further yet to plants and rivers and mountains. The evolution of social justice is precisely that widening circle. In American history, people came to accept religious rights and women’s rights and then racial equality and then gay and lesbian rights. Of course, by no means all people, but if you just look at legislation, going from women’s suffrage to civil rights to gay marriage, there is a clear progression of what people are willing to accept. I’d like to think it’s a steadily ascending line, but it does seem to often take ten steps backwards.
At any rate, starting with MAD (mutually assured destruction in the nuclear arms race) and now to climate change and terrorism, we simply don’t have the luxury to wait. We desperately need to cultivate an inclusive love. Don’t you think?

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