A Week Later

groupphoto

Photo courtesy of the ICSC

Yes, Erik and I have been pretty quiet since Election Day. We’ve been processing.

Under ordinary circumstances we try to keep our personal political and religious opinions off the blog because we like to think of Root Simple as a big tent where all sorts of people can come together around common ground. Also, partisan discussions online lead immediately to unproductive spates of bickering and trolling.

But this time, it’s different. This time, silence seems the greater crime.

This is a hard post to write. I keep ranting, then deleting.

Okay. New plan. Let me tell you a story.

Last Friday a small group of people from my church, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, stood outside the Islamic Center of Southern California and greeted the people arriving for their afternoon prayers with signs reading,”We Support Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters.”

As I stood there, I watched the same thing happen over and over again. As people approached the building they’d hesitate briefly at the sight of us, afraid of what was waiting on the steps of their mosque, but then they’d see our smiles, or read our signs, and realize we were friendly, that we were actually standing in solidarity with them. Then their faces would light up and they would smile big brilliant smiles. They came over and shook our hands and thanked us. Many wept. I wept. We touched our hearts and saluted one another. I am weeping again as I write this, just remembering.

The Islamic Center is a big place, and it serves people of many ages, colors, classes and ethnicities. I cannot count how many hands I shook, how many times I was blessed and I, in turn, blessed others. My heart is still buoyed on the love I felt that day.

And as we stood there, slowly, our group began to grow. A bunch of students and a couple of rabbis from the local Rabbinical school joined us. A woman who honked her support for us while driving by said to herself, “You know, if I spot a parking place, I will take that as a sign that I should do more than honk–I should stop and join them.” And lo! The parking place did materialize, and she came and stood by my side. She told me stories of protesting in the 60’s. A shy young woman arrived bearing a bowl of grapes and pomegranates. She had no idea what why we were all there–she’d just stopped by to give the mosque some fruit and a letter saying she was so very sorry for all the ugliness, but she joined us too. And so it went, and so our group swelled.

This being the modern world, after the handshakes and tears, we all took to social media to share the event with our friends. I have never been photographed so often! This little action may not have been a big splash in the news, but I know that our images went all over world. “Wave hello to England!” one man shouted as he took a video.

christians standing with muslims

Root Simple photo

As I stood there, I remembered a Christmas Eve night in San Diego many years ago, perhaps my favorite Christmas Eve ever. For some reason Erik and I had the night off–we weren’t traveling or at a relative’s house. We decided on the spur of the moment to join a candlelight vigil at the Mexican border. My memory is fuzzy now, but I’m pretty sure it was sponsored by The Catholic Worker. We carried stubs of candles and sang songs and heard recited all the names of those who had died trying to cross the border that year. But mostly we talked to the people on the other side of the fence. Or, because sometimes we could not speak, we touched hands through the bars, or just looked at one another–really looked, for a change. In one another we saw reflected our own sacred humanity, as we did at the mosque last week. And yes, we wept that night as well.

We need to do more weeping like that, weeping within the space of community, because it softens our hearts. We need to spend more time with people who are not like us in heart opening situations –because when we do, we realize that we are, in fact, very much alike in all the ways that matter, and our best state of being is that of being in love.

When we discuss spirit, the sacred, the holy, God, whatever you want to call it, oftentimes we make an upward gesture, as if all that is sacred hovers above us, just out of reach. This week I’ve realized it should be horizontal gesture. The sacred travels in a straight, horizontal line from heart to heart, from eye to eye. It is always with us. It binds us all together.

Peace to you all.

***

n.b.¬† I realize I should note that St. John’s did not descend on the Islamic Center out of the blue. We already have a good relationship with them, due in no small part to the efforts of the marvelous Guibord Center to promote interfaith friendship and understanding. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in learning more about the great world faiths, including Islam, you should attend their free lectures. They also have collected notes and videos online for continued learning.

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22 Comments

  1. A “horizontal gesture.” This is the best thing I have ever heard in talks of religion or spirituality. This will also be my subdued rebuttal to those who wish to push me to an upward path.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and love it, and I agree that silence is worse than saying something political at this time. And how refreshing that your “something political” does NOT include hate. We need more examples of people taking loving action like this. Thank you.

  3. What a beautiful story! Thank you so much for posting it. I absolutely agree that we need as much peace, love and understanding of our fellow humans as we can possibly get right now (and probably all the time)!

  4. Kelley, you’re awesome. What I love about this “political” post is that it’s not political, it’s human. You simply advocate something we all need: connection to each other. I’ve been struggling with what to DO in the past week. How should I help, act, mend?

    I decided to just talk to my neighbors who might be feeling vulnerable and let them know I’m an ally. As I walk my dog or they walk theirs, instead of my usual smile and wave, I stop people, re-introduce myself, and say something like “I’m glad you’re my neighbor and please come to me if you need help. You’re not alone.” I happen to be a white, native-born person lucky enough to live in a neighborhood full of immigrants, people of color, and religious minorities. I decided now is a good time to tell my neighbors that I value and respect them. Simple.

  5. During World War II my father-in-law and his entire community were put in internment camps in the desert. They were all native born American citizens. But they were ethnically Japanese. Their home was taken from them by the government. Their bank accounts were seized. At the end of the war they were released and had to start over from zero. It wasn’t until 1988 that the feds publicly acknowledged this was illegal, unconstitutional, etc. Sometimes entire countries just lose their minds in fear.

  6. Your post is the very expression of the Irish proverb I learned today: It is in the shelter of each other that people live. Thank you for this post!

  7. Thank you for your uplifting story. I needed it.

    During this past week, two Bible quotes have been running through my head.

    1) Psalm 147:4, as quoted in a book that I used to teach to my students (I am a retired ESL teacher). The book is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It is about the rescue of the Jews of Denmark in 1943. Adults should read this book–especially now.

    2) The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

    • I’ve read that book multiple times, the first time when I was nine or ten and my mother read it to me. (I could already read on my own obviously, but we continued our little reading club until I was about 12 or so, just because.) It made both of us cry, a lot, and I remember discussing afterward at length what we would have done had we been in the same situation as the main character. (For those who haven’t read it, it’s about a young Danish girl who joins the effort to rescue Danish Jews from being sent to concentration camps. Her best friend is Jewish.)

      My mom was a history teacher and kept multiple copies of it and of many other similar books in her classroom for her kids to borrow, all of which she purchased on her own dime. By similar books, I mean well-written young adult historical fiction novels that address race, religion, ethnicity — stories about the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, the civil rights movement, etc etc. This was in a majority white, Christian, middle to upper middle class suburb.

      Number the Stars is beautiful, sad, and very moving. I second the recommendation to read it now. I also hope other teachers across the US find ways to do things like my mother did. We need it.

  8. Thank you for this post. May all the events of the past week bring us closer together. For we are truly one. Namasté

  9. Thank you for writing this. It’s one of the more moving pieces I’ve read post-election.
    Still trying to process things (and not getting very far). I’m an American living overseas and it’s extremely frustrating watching this from afar. I’ve lived outside of the US for more than ten years, and my life is for the most part here in France, but my home will always be the US.
    I live in a region that leans politically to the right, but is also home to a relatively high population of Arab, African and Muslim people, some immigrants and some families who have been here for several generations. The French far right has been eagerly watching what is happening in the US. Elections are next year. I’m not a religious person, but I find myself praying in my own way that there is enough love and compassion in the world to squash this wave of hatred.

  10. I’ve been subscribed to your blog for about 2 years. One of the valuable introductions you’ve made to my life is reading The Archdruid Report. To somewhat ease your concerns, I’d suggest reading his post of 11/16/16. I live in central Missouri, you live in a very different world.

  11. Such a moving and heart warming post, thank you from Denmark – where that election has left a serious impression too!

    • In 2007, when I was in Copenhagen, I visited the Museum of the Danish Resistance–a museum that told the story of the courage and resilience of the Danish people under Nazi occupation.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful experience with us. How wonderful to know there is great love and solidarity despite the divisive politics.
    Here in Canada, the US election shock waves are still in the air. Reading your post reminded me that goodness is still strong.

  13. How in the hell is this political? Mutual respect and communication are the basic traits of a decent person no matter which side of the spectrum they fall on. We need more of this, especially between Americans.

    If people would set aside dogma and blind idealism once in awhile, and actually stop and listen to the voices outside of their echo chambers, they would probably find that the left and right have more in common than they think. Turning off the news and actually talking to people around you, like you guys did, is a great place to start.

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