Let Stories Happen

Radical womanA year ago on this day, I woke in despair and disbelief. I had planned on either literally or virtually wailing at the sky last night, to mark a year of despair. Despair had remained, but disbelief had turned into belief. That is, I broke denial and came to believe that the worst actually had happened. It was not a nightmare I would wake from. It was one I was living.

But then, another election happened.

It wasn’t simply that my “side” had won. It was that the true face of America had prevailed. The pale-pink-anger-contorted faces of men had been replaced by faces of many hues and genders, including the face of a transgender woman, and a red-headed man whose grief for the woman who was taken from him by a gun rose to action for gun control.

I don’t believe that women are better than men. Nor do I believe that the hue of one’s skin determines either inherent value or inherent racism.

What I do believe is that the voices, the authentic stories of women and people of color have gone unheard long enough. It’s not that the stories weren’t being told. They were being unheard.

On Tuesday, stories were heard and they resonated and people were moved to change our cultural story.

Confederate statues isn’t our history. Slavery is our history.

Conquest of a continent isn’t our history. Genocide is our history.

Neither is a history that has been relegated to the past anymore than an abuser’s apology relegates abuse to the past.

We can only relegate our history to the past when we reconcile it. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution don’t make us a great nation. Our adherence to them is what gives us the tools for greatness. Not a greatness that means we are better than any other country, but rather, a greatness that strives to rise above fear of the other.

We reconcile and overcome our fear of the other by telling and hearing authentic stories.

On Tuesday, stories were heard and they resonated and people were moved to change our cultural story.

Tuesday was preceded by a year of what I can only call awfulness. Charlottesville. Las Vegas. Sexual assault and predation exposed and condemned, except for the alleged acts of the man who holds the office of president. Bullying disguised as strength. Racism and xenophobia vaunted as patriotism. And then seven percent of a Sutherland Springs’ population was massacred within minutes, including 8 people encompassing 3 generations from the same family, within minutes.

And then followed the story told by opining politicians: we can’t politicize the massacre by talking about gun control, only by becoming a nation of armed citizens at churches, schools, shopping malls, and so on. We must always fear the other is that story.

That is not the authentic story. That is the covering story.

Fear of change is powerful. Especially if the change means a loss of power, or a perceived loss of power. So, we need to hear the stories those in fear tell, and receive them with compassion, hearing the sub-text behind the story, then transform them.

When I hear former general John Kelly tell the story of the sacredness of his son’s death in combat, underneath the stoic acceptance I hear the unfathomable grief of losing his son, “my boy” he called him.

That, to me, the unfathomable grief of losing a child, of having a child taken violently, is the authentic story—the story that Black Lives Matter is trying to tell. That is the story Blue Lives Matter is trying to tell.

That is a story that can connect us.

We need to change the cultural story from one that divides us to one that connects us.

The only thing that will prevent massacres like Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs is to relegate assault-style weapons to their intended purpose: war. There is nothing sportsman about them. Period. Full stop.

In the late 70s Physicians for Social Responsibility used a medical model for arguing against the use of nuclear weapons: if there is no treatment or cure for a disease, the only medical option is to prevent it. I think we need to apply that argument to assault-style weapons.

That, I think, is how we can change that particular story.

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” ~Anne Frank

The quote from Anne Frank’s diary is one of her final entries. I never thought she was foolish for writing that, for believing that. I think she saw that we all have, in our hearts, the choice of darkness or light, and that in the end, light would prevail, though it might come too late to save her. Her diary is her story. We owe it to her to tell the story again. Her family, like the families in Sutherland Springs, was massacred. As were the children and teachers at Sandy Hook, the concert goers at Las Vegas, the high school students and teachers in Columbine. Columbine is no longer one of the top 10 massacres.

On Tuesday, stories were heard and they resonated and people were moved to change our cultural story.

I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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