Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sweeping Statements

I am going to break one of my own cardinal rules and make a few unabashedly sweeping statements. But trying times are trying.

Our nation has wandered into a very dark wood. We have succumbed to the panther of fraud, the lion of arrogance and aggression and the wolf of lust and consumption. Our news, once lively and informative, has descended into a morass of sheer pointlessness, carefully crafted to divert us from any hope of solidarity or meaning. Celebrities trump human beings. We have allowed a wealthy, calculating, and grasping elite to feed at the trough of our democracy, seeking representation without taxation while taxing the rest of us. Labor is sinking slowly toward peonage. Union workers are castigated as lazy which is an excuse for busting the unions. The poor are like the bogey man: a punishment to keep us in our place. According to Richard Wilkinson in his recent book: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Nations Stronger, the United States, once a land of opportunity, has now become the most socially unequal nation in the industrialized world. A few billionaires are calling the shots, telling the rest of us that we cannot afford medical care or pensions or education when a fair tax on just that tiny minority could adequately provide all three. A new for-profit library system is beginning to insinuate itself into our cities, ripping away pensions, lowering salaries and expecting us to be grateful. The only state that actually pays its citizens a benefit for the use of public lands is Alaska, but you wouldn't know what a socially enlightened state Alaska was to listen to the shrill Sarah Palin and her Tea Parties. The profiteers do not just want your money. They want your future. They want your life. They want you indentured or unemployed.

Meanwhile, our public discourse is a mess. Everyone has a pet cause that they think can save the world. Some make sense. Some don't. All of them are in competition with each other, and all of them want your money. Save the oceans! Send me on a fact finding mission to the arctic! Build wind farms! Industry preserves jobs! Mama Grizzlies growl! We're gonna to destabilize society in the name of protecting your freedom! You can get rich and be sustainable at the same time! You: An Owner's Manual. We can't worry about the earth right now; we're in the midst of an economic emergency. I'm just like a character in Middle Earth. I'm an American and anything I do or say is right. Make sense? No. It's not supposed to make sense, but I've been distracted by all of these.

If we wish to survive, we've got to stop being so ADHD. To give a small example, everything we have and everything we are comes from the earth. To say we can stop thinking about the earth because of the economy is like saying, we can't think about breathing right now because of the air.

There's a bad moon on the rise. We're all so hurt that all the sides have started bleeding into one another's open wounds. (Ever wonder why vampires are so popular all of a sudden?) There is no political thought at the moment that is not riddled with contradictions. The conservatives behave like Bolsheviks and the left is status obsessed. As I learned as a kid, you've got to look very closely at your enemies because if you don't, one day you're going to wake up and discover that you're just like them.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reconciliation

It's been over a year since I wrote anything here.

Two summers ago, the last time that God's Sled Dog went exploring, it was to immerse myself in another way of being, in a culture much older, and in many ways, much wiser than my own. I went to Grayling, Alaska, for what might have been the finest experience in my life. The people there and I shared many common joys and struggles. I had hoped to get back, but many things conspired to keep me home.

I've been thinking hard. About what attracted me to my Alaska Native friends, the hunger in my soul that they fed. There is no way I can adequately thank them. I've been doing a lot of talking with folks about the Native Way, its balance, its respect for life, its appreciation of limits (and their creative ways of getting around them from time to time), the obscenity of wasting what the earth has so freely given. It was my elder friend's wife who said, "I don't get you white folks. You go off into the wilderness to find yourself. You're grown up and forty years later still angry about your childhoods. What do you expect to find?" She said this a lot of times.

I haven't told her thank you. I did find myself. I wasn't expecting to, nor was it the reason I went up there, but there was my own true self, just waiting. I brought her home and for the past two years, we've been thinking about a lot of things. About what it means to have roots in a place, to love that place, to respect all life and not be wasteful, to value the company of other people, to venerate the wisdom of age.

Between then and now a lot has happened. The economy tanked, for one. There's weird craziness and bad disorder everywhere. Turns out Americans depend upon money for everything. We're not trusting each other very much, and we're not talking much sense. It was like those town meetings in Alaska, when the white people came in with their theories and talked right over the Natives, never guessing that the Natives knew a lot about that very subject. They just knew it differently. Not as theory or global action plan, but concrete, something that had a name on it, that could be talked to. White people like theory better than real life stories. Theory, being information, can be turned into cash, into grant money, into a promotion. Real life stories are just anecdotal evidence.

But we've gotten ourselves into a real mess over this money stuff. In my faith tradition, they always warn us against loving money too much, about making it the only way to survive and flourish. It has a way of turning on one. It's kind of like cancer. Too much of it grows on just one spot. And now people aren't talking to one another. Instead of caring for our land locally, we're getting all theoretical about climate change and controlling things. We got into our ecological mess by being too controlling -- what makes us think that being more controlling is going to get us out? All those political groups are interested in my money, but they're not really interested in me, and I don't like that. I've paid too much already. I've got a lot to contribute. So do you. Why are we not recognized for anything other than our money, or our support of someone's abstract cause? Why has so much female energy been invested in these crazy Tea Parties? Why do taxes benefit the rich, but not me? I want to contribute, but I don't want to be robbed.

But hey, I'm an Episcopal priest, wearing God's dog collar, and my work is reconciliation. And this I know. Nothing is going to happen for the good until we stop shouting and start talking. I want to talk to people. I want to make sense of things, not shout slogans. I want to find a world that brings out the best in us, not the worst. Maybe my friends in Graying were right, and a lot of us are lost. But that is an invitation to find. Please join me as we explore a very complex, and deeply fascinating tale. I want to hear what you will have to say.