Speaking Up About Hate
I’m a white woman with an audience. These days, I guess that’s called a “platform.” It means that there are a significant number of people who pay attention to what I say, do, post, and write. And because of this, and because of what I see happening in my country and in the world, I feel it’s my responsibility to speak clearly, openly, publicly, and honestly about hate.
Update: June 16, 2020
I wrote this post three years ago, in August, 2017. I could just as easily have written it today. As I witnessed the brutal killing of George Floyd by police in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the subsequent inspiring wave of protests and demonstrations all over the world calling for meaningful, lasting systemic change in our social systems, I have been moved in the depths of my heart by all that is unfolding. I have wept, prayed, and cheered as the wave of awakening, awareness, and consciousness appears to be strengthening in our human family.
I have long respected the teachings and wisdom of American spiritual teacher Gangaji. In this podcast episode, a portion of a talk given over two decades ago, Gangaji speaks with great wisdom and compassion to the challenges of our time.
I share it here in preface to this post, and in honor and support of BlackLivesMatter and all of the peaceful protests that are part of the vast movement of spiritual and social evolution that this time is calling forth in our world.
Gangaji Podcast Episode: #21 Being Yourself | Reckoning with a Cruel White Legacy
Speaking Up About Hate
I’m a white American lesbian woman. I know both privilege and discrimination and hatred on a personal level. I am privileged by my skin color and my socio-economic status as a middle-class American in an affluent society. And, as a woman and a lesbian, I know intimately what it’s like to be marginalized, silenced, discriminated against, and hated.
Because of the color of my skin, my gender conformity, and my economic status, I can be comfortable in most places in most of America. As a woman, not so much…as a lesbian, even less…but I’m not routinely stopped by police officers for no reason, I don’t get stalked by security when I shop, and I can open any magazine or catalog and see people who resemble me. I worked hard for my education, but it was accessible to me because of my race, my economic status, and my national origin. One definition of privilege is “that which we did not earn”…and certainly I was born with these benefits simply because of my skin color and the family, society, and culture in which I was raised.
I also know what it’s like to be afraid. I have experienced sexual violence. I grew up in a fundamentalist religious cult, and I’ve lost family and friends over my sexual orientation and my political viewpoints and spiritual practices. I’ve been threatened, attacked, and made invisible.
I feel both sides.
My life is devoted to facilitating deeper understanding between humans and other species. I teach and practice interspecies telepathic communication, helping people to understand the viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences of beings whose lives are different than our own…sometimes vastly different.
I’m also a yogini and a meditator who believes that spiritual practice can open the doorway for humanity to realize our connection, our sameness, our common ground as fellow sentient beings on this precious planet we call home. And, I’m a person who is sensitive to and fluent in reading energy–whether close to me or on the other side of the planet. It’s been a tough time in these last months/years riding the energetic waves, feeling and witnessing all that is happening in our world.
The events that have been transpiring here in the US and around the world have impacted me deeply. As we got closer to the election last November here in the US, I could feel the upwelling of waves of hatred in my community and in the collective. Although I desperately hoped that I was wrong, in my deepest heart, I knew that we were in for a very, very rough ride.
I learned from my animal clients and friends that non-human beings all over the earth were feeling and working with these same collective waves. Beings from the spirit world and other dimensions communicated with and taught me about the work they are doing to stabilize our world energetically and to support our collective spiritual evolution.
My heart has broken over and over again as I witness the violent, hateful speech and actions in my country and around the world. Each day, I ask myself, how do I show up for this? How do I hold the world in my heart, as the great Divine Mother would, with compassion and tenderness, while still speaking truthfully and clearly about what I see and feel around me?
I believe that we are in a deep and profound time of collective transformation. And I also believe that we are being called to face that which is most deeply hidden in ourselves and in our communities and our collective. The suffering, violence, hatred and wars that our human species is experiencing and expressing are a call for awareness, for radical action, for brave truth-telling, for love.
I feel that there is a great deal of what might be called “spiritual bypassing” in our metaphysical and spiritual communities about what is happening in our world. We are in a global crisis of devastation, destruction, and violence, against our own species and against other species and the Earth herself. Everywhere we look, we see this…it’s impossible not to know. Yet we can’t hold it, we can’t face it, and so we disappear in a myriad of ways…into our devices, into the cocoons of our safe places, into “love and light.” Those of us who are privileged, who don’t face the violence on a daily basis, are even more prone to this.
“We create our own reality…it’s all a dream…people choose their paths…we’re not going to focus on the dark, only on the light…” All of these sentiments may be well-intentioned, but in my opinion, terribly naive…ask a person whose family member has been killed because of the color of their skin…someone who has been tortured because of her religion, sexual identity, or socioeconomic status…someone struggling with day-to-day survival in a refugee camp…someone living with insufficient food…someone living in slavery…to these people, “love and light” doesn’t mean a damn thing, and diminishes the truth of the experience of their lives and their suffering.
Spiritual bypassing–refusing to face the reality of suffering, violence, despair, hatred, and destruction–is a byproduct of privilege…of not needing to face, to see, to know. Turning away, ignoring, not looking, not seeing, amplifies the suffering in our world.
How do we show up for what is happening in our world? How do we show up and bear witness to suffering, destruction, violence, war, millions upon millions of our human family living as refugees, people and animals living in slavery, animal species and our Earth being destroyed by human consumption, ignorance, arrogance, and greed? How do we love in the face of so much hatred, so much violence, so much suffering?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I feel that I have a responsibility to ask them. And I have a responsibility to acknowledge my part in the whole.
I believe that the only thing we can do is to tell the truth, to speak up and face head-on, with hearts and eyes open, the situation(s) of our current reality in our mutually-agreed upon timeline here on Planet Earth.
In my Deepening Animal Communication class, there is an exercise where we work with non-human beings who we are afraid of, repulsed by, or know nothing about. We ask, in essence, “What is it like to be you? What is your perspective? How do you live your life? How do you view humans….your environment..your world?”
It’s easy for me to ask a whale, a snake, a cat, or a person who is “like me”, “What is it like to be you?” It’s much harder to do that with someone I’m afraid of…someone I dislike..someone who hates me simply because of my gender or my sexual orientation or my nationality.
What would it be like if we did this with each other, with our human family? Instead of calling each other names, shaming each other, trading insults, attacking each other with verbal and physical violence, what would it be like if we stopped, took a breath, or several, and asked this question? “Why do you hate? What and who do you love? What has brought you to this place in your life? What are you afraid of? What is your perspective?”
What if we really, really tried to understand each other…out of genuine curiosity, respect, and willingness to open our minds and our hearts? What kind of world could we create?
When I think about the neo-Nazi and fascist expressions in my community, which have become emboldened and much more public in these last several months, I’m stopped short by these questions. Could I do this? How would I start? I feel my fear choke my throat…my heart beats fast…previous lifetimes roll before my eyes…and I pause, breathe, and start again with an intention to open my heart, to allow my voice and my life to create more peace, more tolerance, more understanding in our world.
I feel I have a responsibility to speak up when I see hatred, racism, violence, and bigotry around me. I don’t think there is a conflict between working to understand and holding people accountable for their actions. Can I hold someone who expresses violent hatred as a fellow human being, worthy of respect, of care, of love? Can I see the divine essence of a person who hates, who kills, who expresses violent and racist ideology? Can I do this and still hold myself and others accountable for our actions?
When I ask these questions, I often think of my animals, who, as always, are my greatest teachers and role models. “What Would Maddy Do?” is a question I ask frequently. My cat Maddy is kind to Milo, the Cat Who Bullies Other Cats. Maddy genuinely likes Milo. Instead of fighting back, or running away in fear, Maddy stands his ground with Milo. When Milo picks on him, swats him, tries to intimidate him, backs him into a corner, Maddy goes still and quiet. He says, “I love you, Milo. You’re my friend. I don’t want you to hurt me. I don’t want to hurt you.” And 99% of the time, Milo will move away and continue on with his life (which usually involves having a snack and taking a nap.)
I don’t mean to imply that Milo’s behavior, which is actually well within the bounds of “normal” for his species, is equivalent to a human bullying, raping, or killing another. And yet, there is a lesson here for me. What if we just simply said to each other, “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to hurt me. Let’s try to make peace. I love you.” What might happen in our species? How might we be able to change our world?
As Brené Brown said in a recent Facebook live broadcast after the Charlottesville incident here in the USA, “We are not hardwired to hurt each other.”
Can we say NO to hate and violence, and YES to love? Can we learn to live with each other in our global family?
I think that asking the questions is important. We don’t have to have the answers, but our hearts begin to open when we ask the questions. From there, the answers may unfold. We may create art, make music, participate in a peaceful action, write a book, love a child, cut a whale loose from fishing gear entanglement, feed a feral cat, volunteer at a homeless shelter, offer our spiritual practice to those who are suffering, sit with someone who is lonely, take care of someone who is dying. The actions are important…and the questions in our hearts and our willingness to explore them, ask them, and live with them may guide us to the actions, work and lives that are the most relevant, most worth living in this time.
How will we live? How will we show up? Are we willing to ask the hard questions, look suffering in the face–our own and others–and hold it in our hearts, our hands, our lives?
This time requires nothing less of us than our full and open hearts, our deepest wisdom, our greatest creativity, our most tender compassion, and our complete honesty. If we can show up for ourselves and each other this way, we can begin to create a new world, a new way of being, a new way of living, a new way of loving.
Let’s take care of each other. Let’s ask the hard questions. Let’s show up in the clearest, kindest, most honest way we are able to. We won’t do it perfectly. We don’t have to. We just have to do the best we can, right here, right now.
Imagine the world we can create together. Imagine.