Thursday, October 5, 2017

Solidarity will see us through

An early morning text contained a cartoon of the Simpsons by the Puerto Rican flag, Marge holding a sign that said, "Unido." It had been sent by my friend and colleague, Dr. Lourdes Rodriguez of the Dell Medical School, who'd written, "If that isn't solidarity, I don't know what is!"
Later that day Lourdes sent an email discussing the need to prepare for a spike in migration from Puerto Rico.  Her email discussed a paper we'd published some years ago about the difficult process that families go through when they are forced from home and must resettle.  Our paper has the title, "I used to cry every day."  What we learned from that study was that families have a much easier time with resettlement if they are welcomed where they arrive.  Russian Jewish families in our study had found lots of support, while families coming from Central and South America were not always so fortunate.  If we can show solidarity to the people of Puerto Rico -- those moving to the mainland and those staying on the island -- the upheaval of families will be greatly eased.

But our solidarity can't stop there.

The New York Times published an op/ed showing the last 477 days, with the days on which mass murders took place marked in black: there have been 521 mass murders -- 4 or more people killed at once -- during that time.

With climate change upon us, and the need to stop emitting carbon and other poisons growing ever more urgent, the Trump administration is poised to drop more environmental protections.

The list could get very long: the point is that we are in a moment of extraordinary pain and uncertainty.  An AP  photographer snapped a handwritten sign posted at a memorial in Las Vegas.  It said, "Pray for Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, Mexico, The WORLD."

Solidarity is one of the nine principles of urban restoration that I wrote about in my book, Urban Alchemy.  We can only really fix these huge problems if we look around and understand that we have to stand together, UNIDO, as Marge Simpson is pointing out.

The thing about terror -- whether it's from mass murder or winds of 150 miles per hour or bad decisions by our government -- is that it leaves us feeling out of breath and alone.  We must restore our ability to breathe.

I got a new perspective on this problem last summer when I was in a car accident and was absolutely terrified that I would be killed.  The terror stayed with me, but so did my friends.  One friend gave me meditation and craniosacral therapy.  Other friends took me on The Maid of the Mist, a boat that goes right up to Niagara Falls.  And another friend designed a new cover for my father's book, Homeboy Came to Orange, soon to be reissued by New Village Press.  The old cover made me deeply unhappy, but the new cover, with its elegance and quiet dignity, made me cry with joy--my father would have been so proud.  These acts of my friends helped me feel included in human society, and enabled me to breathe again.  This was solidarity.  Solidarity is the way in which living beings demonstrate to one another that there is a God who does not leave us alone in the darkest moments of our lives.

And it doesn't matter what or who or how we think about God: I'd say "all roads lead to Rome" but that might be misleading in this instance!  All ways of connecting with transcendence can be fraught and torn by terror, but are repaired by solidarity.

It is also good to know that showing solidarity helps the giver and the receiver.  As pointed out by St. Francis, "It is in giving that we receive."

Terror is an all too large part of this complicated world in which we live.  Therefore, we must deepen and extend our practice of solidarity.  If we do, we will save others and we will save ourselves.