Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Complicity


The first time I traveled to Africa 2 years ago I returned with a deeper level of personal awareness of my impact on the earth and it’s peoples. I turned a new corner in a journey that had already begun in my soul long before; one of a deepening consciousness about global issues regarding the environment, trade, health, and human rights. But since my return from Africa on this last trip, I can only say that I am even more awake than ever…excruciatingly awake to the terrible injustice that exists on our planet and my complicity in it. Everywhere I look I am confronted with it. It hides under thinly disguised and not-so-thinly disguised trade policies, corporate expansion plans, military actions, and even humanitarian aid campaigns…I see it in my home in the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the fuel in my car, the cell phone I use, and the diamond ring on my hand. Even my house is built on stolen soil, stained by the blood and tears of the native Duwamish tribe…and I cannot wash it off of my hands no matter how hard I try. The oppression is pervasive. I realize that I will never be able to truly sleep again…even when I forget for a moment and begin to live in the daydream that is our society…I am shaken out of it again and again. Tormented.

It is difficult to describe the outrage and grief I’ve experienced upon the realization that the very act of living on this American soil and participating--if even in the most conscious ways--in this economy, means I am paying for the very injustice I claim to stand against. It is the most agonizing paradox. I pay my taxes and grit my teeth while my money funds environmental degradation, violence, and unthinkable kinds of exploitation. My very skin symbolizes generations of conquest, arrogance, murder, slavery, and global oppression. I feel like a snake trying to shed my skin only to find another layer of the same stuff underneath and I wonder if I will lose my mind.

The words from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible move me. One of the characters especially resonates with me: Leah Price came to Congo as a young, naïve American girl with her missionary family in 1960. Now and adult living in Congo and married to a Congolese man her “awakening” haunts her too…

“Be kind to yourself," he says softly in my ear, and I ask him, How is that possible? I rock back and forth on my chair like a baby, craving so many impossible things: justice, forgiveness, redemption. I crave to stop bearing all the wounds of this place on my narrow body. But I also want to be a person who stays, who goes on feeling anguish where anguish is due. I want to belong somewhere, damn it. To scrub the hundred years’ war off this white skin till there’s nothing left and I can walk out among my neighbors wearing raw sinew and bone, like they do. Most of all, my white skin craves to be touched and held by the one man on earth I know has forgiven me for it.

The book closes with this beautiful and healing passage from the perspective of Ruth May, Leah’s young, dead sister…

The teeth at your bones are your own, the hunger is yours, forgiveness is yours. The sins of the fathers belong to you and to the forest and even to the ones in iron bracelets, and here you stand, remembering their songs. Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember…Move on. Walk forward into the light.

6 Comments:

Blogger Tan - said...

Wow. i am actually speechless right now...still processing your processing. i'm glad to see you are writing again. thanks for sharing your "raw-ness".

2:32 PM  
Blogger Heidi Renee said...

The implications of complicity are so far reaching and pervasive. I wonder if it is partly what pushes our society to numb itself out continually?

I was so blessed by those quotes from The Poisonwood Bible, thank you for including them as part of your story. They will help me to live with my own complicity without entering into the insanity that calls me when i begin to look at all you describe and choosing to enter into the forgiveness and walk in the light.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel it too Tanya. The magnitude and where to begin to heal all the wounds? I believe we begin by looking in the mirror and forgiving ourselves and our ancestors. Forgiveness and love are the keys to so much the world faces. Yes we need to do our part to cease what is ours but we cannot carry the burdens of the entire planet on our souls...it will eat us alive and the devil will have his dance. Remember Jesus Christ Tanya. Cry yourself to sleep at the foot of the Cross and walk again with the renewed since of being a powerful child of God. We must start with ourselves and then deal with the next layer. One person cannot take on the world...a spark is needed to spread a fire and a drop of rain can put the spark out. You are that drop of rain quelching the fire of hatred and evil in your home community, your world community. Don't let the fire consume you. God is listening and loving you through this transition. You are a beautiful voice and a wonderous soul. Janet

9:21 PM  
Blogger Heidi Renee said...

I finished the Poisonwood Bible about a month ago and it still is echoing in my heart and soul. I think it should be required reading for every Christian.

Kingsolver is so skilled at teaching without pandering. I learn more in her books than any civics class I've ever taken.

Have you read Prodigal Summer? It's about Appalachia and while not as moving, still very, very good.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Dennis Argall said...

I am away in Australia, but still in the same situation. And yesterday, when I wrote to Vince about the new Ebola outbreak and said I hope it does not reach his community - you can see it at http://easterncongo.net/ he replied that yes, he also hoped it did not reach them, they already had people dying with cholera and plague --- plague... plague? In 2007, plague?

You will appreciate this response of high school students in Indiana to Poisonwood Bible
http://ourcongo.net/chirezi/westfieldhigh.htm
in the context of learning about these projects.

The biggest question for us in the affluent world is what to do? I have become mentor to these projects, it is an extraordinary thing. We can engage with such issues, we can shift the internet from talk-talk-lookatme to talk, think, act, achieve. Come and join us!

12:31 PM  
Blogger Dennis Argall said...

there was a link missing from my last message:

"... in the context of learning about these projects:
http://ourcongo.net/

See especially Amina's project
http://womenof.ourcongo.net/bukavu/0708amina.htm

dennis

12:35 PM  

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