America is…

So fellow travelers, this will not be a “zen moment” haiku post….

and for my readers who live outside the maelstrom of the United States, bear with me as I speak directly to my fellow Americans. At best you will gain some insight into what the experience of the past 24 hours has been like for the majority of us.

So fellow travelers here on the ground in the  United States, if you, like me, woke this morning with a pervasive feeling of unease because you do not feel safe in your own country welcome to the daily reality of just over 40% of the US population. Let that sink in and then, before fear paralyzes you, understand that this can be a  “truth will set you free” moment. 


My social media media is full of people declaring “This is not America .”  The point of what happened at the Capitol Building yesterday (in fact exactly 24 hours ago, as I write this) is the clear, in our face truth of This IS America and by that I do not mean this is what America “has become.”
What we witnessed is indeed what America is because the majority of us have ignored racism because we can. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s good because it means you are open to changing that. Even this kid from the Bronx, who felt the sting of being called “slant eyes” and the confusion of being told “Oh, those kids didn’t mean that” when she knew damn well they did, who grew up with a burning desire to make a difference, who made every effort to raise her daughters to live in awareness, whose life and career choices focused on being a champion for the disenfranchised, under represented members of her community, still failed to fully take in what it means to live within a racist power based system.
My one saving grace lies in not being surprised (shaken, yes, but not surprised) by yesterday’s violence; at least I immediately recognized it not as an aberration but as the culmination of years of instigation by the leader our government’s power base willingly sold their souls to. Their one saving grace might be the stark reality which hit as they sheltered under chairs or behind lock office doors. It appears to have had an effect, as they pushed back against fear and refused to be intimidated. Our elected representatives returned to the secured chambers and completed the formal count of electoral college votes and at 3am this morning, certified the results of the Presidential election. Democracy survives, flawed and wounded, though with hope not fatally. 

As a former educator, my colleagues and I know the challenge of “resuming the business at hand” after sheltering in place during an “intruder incident.”  I posted a call on my social media for friends and followers to contact their representatives and express their appreciation. After doing so myself, I took my dog for a long walk yet still felt unsettled. I asked for a sign of hope. What I found was this tiny plant- still bearing brilliant autumn colors, refusing to succumb to the ravages of winter’s killing season.
I knew I needed to do more.

So here I am at the keyboard attempting to put words to this awakening which carries more weight than one haiku would hold.

So Now What?
If what we are finally seeing is not the country we want it to be, where do we go from here? I do not have many answers beyond the simple truths which serves as my personal moral and spiritual compass:
Everything I react to outside myself is a reflection of something within me. So, I ask: what does what I am seeing happening in my country say about me?  By starting with my place in this crisis I refrain from the trap of laying blame as a conveniently “righteous” way of avoiding responsibility for the one sure element I can change- myself. That also does not mean I stop holding others accountable for their actions. The lack of accountability is the main reason “things have come to this.” The BLPOC community has been telling us this is for decades. We need to do more than nod our heads in agreement. This crisis does not end on January 20th; the work of equitable change will go on for years. Expect to hear a lot more about that here and yes, there will zen moment haikus included for balance.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let hope Light the way

Deborah H Rahalski

3 comments

  1. You express my thoughts. I also was not shocked. Sadly, I expected something of the sort and I agree with you :this IS what we are and we need to find a way to fix it. There will be a lot of hard work and need of cooperation, listening to each other which is a short coming I think in the USA. But there are enough good people, so there is hope…

  2. I was shocked and felt betrayed too – that the level of incivility was such that our democracy was under siege. There is much need for healing but it will take effort that I’m not sure can be mustered considering that half the nation is unwilling to stand up and denounce the actions of Wed. afternoon… I remain optimistically hopeful and pessimistically practical.

    1. There is a concept in sociology that references “normalizing” behavior; basically what becomes “acceptable” vs “aberrant” is determined by a broad consensus. Humans for the most part want to be accepted. When their behaviors become unacceptable they are more likely to at least change their behaviors, although not their beliefs. A change in leadership can make a meaning difference in moving bar of what is “acceptable.”

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