A story.

My feet were soaking wet with water from the bathroom floor, socks sticking uncomfortably to the soles of my feet.  Me and another volunteer had removed our shoes to use the shared bathroom in cramped refugee housing on the Family Unit in Moria.  The man there, who seemed to have some type of authority in the small space, said of course we could use their toilet, and kindly asked us to remove our shoes before entering their meager accommodations.  But it was theirs.  For now.

L and I had to ask this kind man from Syria to use his toilet because an angry man from another aid group (don’t kid yourselves; territorial pissing matches were quite common in Moria) told volunteers from the organization we were with that we could not use the toilets we had been using all week in another area of the camp.  So there we were in the Family Unit asking the refugees for hospitality.  Which was given without hesitation.

After doing what I needed to do, the man who allowed L and I to use the toilet (his name was Madjt) insisted we stay for tea.  So, okay, why not?  L and I sat on a cot with an itchy blanket and waited for our tea, prepared in used paper cups with plenty of sugar.

Madjt was clearly the leader of that group, if only because he spoke English, French, and Arabic, and perhaps other languages I am not aware of.  He proceeded to share a bit of his journey from Aleppo to Greece.  It was a story I had heard before and also hadn’t.

The war.  The bombs.  Death.  His children.  His wife.  Left behind.  Discrimination in Turkey.  He knows someone in Montreal who is a doctor.  It’s the same story and it’s not.

Honestly, Madjt was quite talkative, and hard to follow at times.  So much emotion and desperation, and frustration.  Frustration at the processes in the camp, the lack of services available, the fact that he couldn’t get a doctor to give him something for his eye infection, something more than instructions to eat better and drink more water.  (See my post about the food quality in that camp while I was there.)

There was another young man, not even 20 years old, I’d guess, and he interrupted Madjt with a stream of Arabic.  He looked right at L and I as the unfamiliar words poured out.  Madjt paused his own story and listened, then translated for us.  This young man was going to kill himself if his asylum claim was rejected.  I had heard this before too, and it was more common than I can bear to think of some days.  I looked at his anguished face, the shining unshed tears in his eyes, and I could barely hold myself together.  I don’t remember what I said, if anything.  If I said any words, I am sure they were utterly useless and empty coming from the white lady with a Canadian passport and the ability to cross borders as I choose.  Without missing a beat, Madjt finished translating for him and then picked up his own storyline again.

As I concentrated on not just sobbing and screaming at the hopelessness of it all, Madjt said that he made his way to Greece because the West always claims they are about freedom and a good life.  He waved his hand around the overcrowded quarters for emphasis, and stopped speaking, as if to say “this is freedom?”  The chatty, no-nonsense attitude stopped here, and Madjt truly shared his anguish.  “The West doesn’t care about us.”  It was here that I saw a man realize he’s risked everything for a lie, the lie of the West’s smug proclamations of being amazing and great and free and equal.  But in that moment I realized people are dying and suffering because they believe those claims.   Something broke inside of me.  It was an ugly cry, I’m sure.  Madjt smiled as if to make a bit of fun of me.  What does SHE have to cry about?

I have seen people realize that they have been duped.   But not when the cost is so high and so deep.  And on a grand scale, I am part of that.

It has been almost a year since I have met Madjt, and I have only been able to write about his story now (he gave me permission).  It is too painful and condemning.  It has caused me to deeply question my own origin story on a personal level and that of my own Western culture.  A culture that loves to sell itself as welcoming and freedom and opportunity, but only when it serves our own interests.  In other words, the freedom and welcome are not unconditional, and when you have nothing to offer in return, Western governments don’t care if you’re dying.  I tried to stutter to Madjt this idea, that people all over the world care for Syria, for people like him, but governments don’t.

(I am now going to narrow down my references to “the West” as the US and Canada, because as smug as Canadians are, we are very similar to our American friends.)

I love hearing the stories of solidarity from Canada and the United States, welcoming people into their countries and communities from all walks of life.  But I don’t see that as a function of a benevolent and kind nation state.  That’s the bull shit I’m talking about. It is the people on the ground, loving their neighbours, dismantling oppression from inside and outside the system.  But the movement is precarious, made even more fragile when it is tied to nationalistic rhetoric, like “America already IS great,” or “Canada’s strength is diversity!”  I don’t disagree with these things on principle; I understand where they are coming from, but there is such a risk to being blind to our own histories and the oppression and hatred that is still driving some hateful movements and legacies.

Let’s start asking the right questions.  Are we really celebrating Canada’s diversity as a strength when we continue to ignore First Nations’ voices?  Maybe “We the people” actually meant only white guys were “the people.”  Once we realize what the questions should be, instead of falsely elevating our painful, racist, colonial pasts, maybe we can actually start to close the gap between our stated ideals and our lived-out reality.  Talk is cheap, friends.  So is hate.

I don’t know what happened to Madjt.

 

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It’s only been a week.

Sigh.  So we’ve seen what’s going on south of the 49 this week.  Erasure of LGBTQ people, denial of photographs, facts, and scientific data; defunding of health care for women (Planned Parenthood is not just abortions; women’s health care and birth control are alsoprovided there.  I digress.)

I’d never thought I’d have to face Christofascism, outside of a study of Nazi Germany. Yet here we are.

And now the as-promised Muslim ban, along with delightful rhetoric like if you’re from a Muslim country, you have a “predispostion” to terrorism.  Thanks, Mr. US Press Secretary, for that tidbit of racist-as-fuck-ism.

I feel zero hope tonight, friends.  None.  It’s gone.  See, this is why I hurt so deeply when people call me bitch, negative, bitter, cynic, “libtard,” and other names like that: I live my life filled with hope.  So much hope.  I know this, because when hope disappears, it feels like death and blackness.

No inspiring words tonight, dear friends.  Tonight, I sit in the darkness.  But I’m not afraid.

Poems & Prayers Thursday

“May God rid of me of God.”

-Peter Rollins’ paraphrase of Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic.

May we be wrecked and broken wide.  May we see the table is big enough for everyone and that there is more than enough for all.

Amen.

 

I ‘ll get out of the way now

Here are some great and thought-provoking pieces on the Women’s March on Washington, especially on the importance of intersectionality.

(I want to note this wasn’t a pro-abortion march.  There is more nuance to that issue than I am going to touch in this blog, at least for now.)

BLM Vancouver and the Vancouver march.

A long one, but worth the read.

Piece by Kimberle Crenshaw – woman who originally coined the term “intersectionality.” I’m still working my way through this one.

Listen to her words.

Any more suggestions, friends?  I am here to learn.

 

Because reasons.

But what are they?

Why did I choose to march in the Women’s March on Washington – Vancouver?

Well, there it is.  “Choose.”  The fact that I could show up at this march or not show up, and, really, my life would stay the same.  My level of wealth, access to things like healthcare services, and my expectations of safety would remain the same.  They aren’t threatened.  At least not yet.

Here’s the thing.  I thought I was going to the march to stand in solidarity with other women around the world – and I did, and it was amazing for me – but it turns out I needed to go the march to see how much my own life and choices can oppress and silence others’ stories.  To see how much work there still needs to be done, not only in my community and the world at large, but in my own self.  I don’t need to fight for many things I think we all take for granted (buses available for my appointments [see Highway of Tears], clean drinking water from a tap in my own home [see Grassy Narrows First Nation], an actual network of roads giving me access to my community and outside communities [see Shoal Lake 40 First Nation]).  This protest was a starting point for me: If this march is just an emotional, Instagram-able exercise for me, I’m not standing in true solidarity.  Not until I get involved in these issues in a meaningful way.  

Perhaps I needed the march more than it needed me.

If you are here February 14th, please consider going: https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/

 

#wmwyvr

I marched in the Women’s March on Washington here in Vancouver on Saturday.  It was my first protest experience, and I was blown away by all the positive energy and sheer force of love and unity that was present at this march.  The energy of all these women marching together is FIERCE.  No wonder some find feminism so threatening.

I was also a little uneasy and very, very aware of my own privilege.  It was not lost on me that there were a lot of white faces in the crowd and that the police officers were there on bicycles doing crowd control in bike shorts.  Oh, hey, friendly officer, thanks for helping us protest!  Some may say that was a Canadian thing, but just imagine for a moment if 15,000+ First Nations sisters or Black sisters were there marching.  Yeah, put away your bicycle shorts.

There were great signs, reflecting the diversity of reason why people were marching. (I’ll share mine in more depth on tomorrow’s post.)  There were mamas with children, teenaged friends from schools, men with their partners, women on their own, women with friends, like I was.

It was a good first experience for me, but I am not sure that matters.  There wasn’t exactly a lot of space there for trans people (that I saw, anyway), and BLM Vancouver boycotted the event because they weren’t actually invited, which the organizers of this march dealt with by using a non-apology apology.  (You know, sorry if you were offended…).

On Saturday, I was reminded of women’s utter beauty and love for each other and the world in which we live.  I was forced to grapple with my own ignorance and privilege, and I finally understood why intersectional feminism is so important.  Thank you to those who did the hard and painful work before me – and continue to do so – so I could march on Saturday in such a peaceful way.

We still have work to do, friends.  Ladies, get in formation.

It is Inauguration Day for my U.S. friends, but increasingly, as I read parts of the transcript of Trump’s speech, his words will have far-reaching impacts outside of American borders.  He is calling for a me-first mentality and calls it “right” for countries to pursue their own interests first.  (Note: after someone read the Beatitudes.)  Not to mention the toxicity of unity under a civil religion (“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice”).  Fuck, does ANYONE read history anymore?

Today the sadness.  Tomorrow The Rising.

Micah J. Murray is a blogger who I feel should get the last word here today.

Love and Light to us all.

Poems & Prayers Thursdays

This one has a little #tbt flavour to it.

David and I bought this printed prayer on our honeymoon in Hawaii.  I found it a while ago, covered in dust, while organizing some storage containers.

Marriage Prayer

Lord, help us to remember the first time we met

And the strong love that grew between us.

Help us to apply that love in practical things so nothing divides us.

We humbly ask for kind words filled with love,

and for hearts always ready to ask forgiveness,

as well as to forgive.

Lord, we leave our marriage in your hands.  Amen.

 

 

Sticky Notes and Scribbles

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That’s all I have so far for today’s post.  For those of you wondering what my chicken scratch says: “Rollins – all construct – wisdom?”

My Tuesdays and Wednesdays are really long, and by the time I get to the end of my day, I have random blog post ideas written down piecemeal in Evernote or on Post-Its, buried under rosters on my desk.  Or perhaps no concrete idea to share at all.

Let’s begin.

“Rollins,” as in Peter Rollins, a philosopher and theologian, whose words have been very comforting to me, but I realize that some of what he teaches may upset some.  I have only read a small amount of his work so far, as well as listened to a few podcasts by him, and at the very least, I have learned that everything is a construct (from Wikipedia: A construct in the philosophy of science is an ideal object, where the existence of the thing may be said to depend upon a subject’s mind.)  Thus, “all construct.”

There’s a lot of discussion in media lately about NAFTA negotiations being reopened, America pulling out of the agreement fully, or a new border tax being imposed between US and Canada (really shitty news for us), the Brexit exit clause being triggered and how they want to basically have their cake and eat it too (“um, not in the E.U. market, but access to the market, please. So no responsibility and no requirements; but definitely profit!  Thank you.”)   This struck me as amusing today: the ultimate construct (nation states) negotiating their participation in or exit from another construct (trade agreement).  Constructs constructing their roles in other constructs.  Got it?

Among the mud-slinging and reactionary, protectionist swagger and just general overall peacocking is the clear message that everyone is trying to do what is best for themselves and no one is trying to help anyone else.  The phrase “best interest” gets repeated.  A lot.  A LOT.  

Now “wisdom.”  If we must relate to one another using constructs of some type (probably), can we inject a little wisdom into it?

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” -Richard Rohr

 

 

anon. circa 2017

​First anonymous contributor to my blog. I’m grateful for the story they have chosen to share with me. If you’d like to share a post, anonymous or not, contact me. 

One time, I told a friend that I went to church regularly. She responded by saying that she didn’t go to church because she’d always thought it seemed to her like brainwashing. 

I nodded in agreement. It does kind of seem like brainwashing sometimes. There is chanting and speaking in unison and repetition. We reaffirm unchanging beliefs and have built hierarchies and cultures around them. Some Christian communities are even known for resisting important ideas that seem logical to others. (Global warming and evolution come to mind.)  

So I’ll ask a question I had been afraid to verbalize most of my life: Is there something about faith in the Christian God that prevents people from thinking clearly?

Maybe. I reached the end of my faith this year. More accurately, I reached the end of a particular type of faith a long time ago, but kept going until this year due to some kind of church inertia. 

I’ll try to explain: All those rote habits, the songs, the community, they become ingrown after a while. They become a part of you, and so do the people. It gets deep. You think together, you pray together, and you serve together. So it only makes sense to leave when you find yourself in peril, when it becomes too painful to stay, even though there are people around you who care for you. 

The church togetherness can be beautiful, but it can create also create barriers that deflect our thoughts away from those that might deviate from the script. I know this isn’t exclusive to churches; it’s part of being a person reliant on hundreds of other people with a complex history. 

For me, the cognitive dissonance was too much. The dogma was too much. The suppression of doubt and the certainty was too much. The vague threat of hell, occasionally thrown into sharp relief by elderly preachers was too much. The story of Jesus did not feel hopeful after a while. It felt like a facade. It felt like we were trying too hard.      

Is there a God? I don’t know. Why ask such a boring question? 

The people are all around us. Let’s just love them already.