Choosing a Tribe

It all started with Howard Zinn.  A few years ago, I stumbled across a book entitled, “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress,” by a man named Howard Zinn.  The title sounded enticing, so I did something out of character and bought it without having opened it.

The book sat idle for a few weeks as I tried to find time to read it.  I discovered it was a selection of essays, making it easier to read in bits and pieces.  I started reading a chapter each night at bedtime and was quickly hooked. 

Zinn wrote with passion, and articulated concepts I had often felt swirling wordlessly around inside me; his words were a call to action.  I felt like I saw his soul, and admired his steely resolve of integrity, combined with genuine warmth and compassion.  I found myself dog-earing pages, and underlining and starring section after section of his words.  I had found a hero.

My “do-gooder” nature over the years has earned me some good-natured ribbing and the nickname of “Mrs. Justice” from my kids, but Howard Zinn understood.  His words validated my need for “do-gooding,” but also struck a deeper chord, because Zinn was a historian extraordinaire.  He gave a voice to those historically voiceless, and I realized that they are us, and all of us depend on all of us to do something.  Anything and everything makes a difference.  As Zinn illustrated in story after story, common people like you and me were the ones who changed the world, not leaders and politicians.  Not only do we have the right to be do-gooders; we have a responsibility.  I should probably mention here that I really hated history class, and skipped school at every opportunity to avoid it; now history had come alive.

About four days into my nightly Zinn-reading routine, I had a powerful and vivid dream.  I was part of an ancient and powerful nomadic tribe, living in a plains area.  Another smaller, peaceful tribe lived nearby, and I had become friends with a little boy from that tribe, about eight years old (I’m not sure of my age or gender in this dream; I guess it wasn’t relevant).  For some time, my tribe had been tormenting this other tribe, and I watched in unspeakable horror as adults from my own tribe beat this boy brutally, then drowned him in a stream, laughing raucously.  I knew in that moment that I was leaving my tribe, to live with the smaller, weaker tribe.  I also knew the decision would result in my death, but I was at peace with that; it was better than being one of the killers, and I would die standing with MY people.

I woke in tears.  I didn’t see the outcome of the dream and didn’t need to.  I had chosen my tribe.

After that night, I began standing peace vigil, and reading and learning all I could about creating peace… writings by politicians, faith leaders, former soldiers, people living in war zones, and ordinary folks like Peace Pilgrim.  I try to be mindful every day about standing on the side of peace, and not letting down my tribe. 

I’ll leave it to you to think about who my tribe is, but if you stand for peace, I will stand with you.  I know that Howard Zinn would too.

"The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There's no innocence. Either way, you're accountable."  Arundhati Roy

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