Sunday, September 27, 2020

Caravans of Citizens -- Let's Get Curious

Today offers some opportunity for reflection and curiosity, as any day does, I suppose. This one’s observations and musings belong here, however, for reconsidering citizenship. As I drove to CrossFit (about 20 minute drive on some state-routes and then interstate 75), then back again, I saw what could loosely be called mini Trump parades—bands of pick-up trucks, automobiles and/or motorcycles with large American flags and Trump signs-flags unfurling in the winds of moving vehicles. The first one was on Woodman Drive, a city-street of a suburb of Dayton (Riverside) that connects southern suburbs of Dayton to State Route 35, which functions a bit like an interstate-wanna-be, connecting I-70 and I-675, amongst other towns east and west of Dayton (Xenia to the west, for instance, or even as far eastward as Eaton). The second one was on the way home. Traffic slowed on I-70, moving south-ward, as the caravan of vehicles drove a bit more slowly than usual traffic through Dayton’s downtown.

I remember my cousin in Cincinnati posting about this last weekend, but I didn’t have the visual yet. I now have the visual and visceral experience which invites some curiosity in me… 


The first thing for me to be clear about here is that they are clearly citizens who intend to vote. If one of the features of citizenship today is voting in the upcoming election, then these individuals are indeed banding together as citizens for their particular candidate, for whom they are adamantly going to vote. In my fifty-some years of citizenship, however, I have never seen this particular brand of expression. I see the yard-signs popping up, a usual occurrence. I see the ads that pop up before videos I want to watch, another familiar occurrence. People I know are volunteering and putting time, sweat and tears into getting out the vote, voter education, campaign-advocacy for a particular candidate, etc. There are mail ads and TV ads are forthcoming, most likely; I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, so I wouldn’t know. Small bands of roving caravans, large signs and flags whipping in the 50 mph winds, slowing of traffic and drawing attention in these ways caused by movement on a highway? Unfamiliar to me in my fifty some years. Worthy of some reflection, methinks.


I admit my first reaction was a pretty predictable and less compassionate or awakened one, which will not surprise anyone who has traveled closely with me these last 5 years of feminine awakening and eruptions of rage within me. [I have a deep vein of molten lava easily nicked at the patriarchal abuses of both men and women. Patriarchy is the abuse of the power principle, not about masculinity, per se…and it has torqued our ability to be human with one another for centuries. When I witness it or feel it, I can be less compassionate than I do desire because the rage inside me...]. I heard my own mental voice say, Wow. Look at that. The White Man and his minions are finally, truly afraid. Perhaps coming to conscious awareness of this fear for the very first time.


In my own defense, all the drivers and passengers I saw here were white and male, except for a pickup truck that had two children in the back small-seats. I couldn’t tell if they were a boy and a girl or boys or girls. So, this particular caravan was white and male and posturing his bravado, taking up space and slowing down traffic, drawing attention to himself. What most white men I know do when they are feeling insecure and afraid. Not the men closest to me, of course, but the white men I work with? Yep. Pretty predictable.


When my more awakened heart emerged with her compassion, I reminded myself that saying it this way is an offense to all of the other white men who would never be caught dead in such a parade or bravado, nor would ever in a million years vote for this particular candidate. So… I honor the irritated liberal in me who spoke her anger-frustration-even-smug-amusement, and the compassionate listening curious heart that truly does want to participate in healing our democracy. When this Open Curious Heart in me is holding the space, She is fierce that these caravans are constituted by true citizens with a passion for their candidate and whatever they believe he stands for. They are at least engaging in civic activity that we can see, as opposed to the silent majority of the rest of us, trying to figure out how to become active citizens in ways that have integrity for our hopes, passions, dreams, concerns.


I think a presumption of fear (in them) arose first because I could feel the waves of surprise, aversion, and fear rise up in my own belly, my own heart. I felt a visceral body response of fear, even a bit of nausea, to these caravans, before I worked out and afterwards too. Something in my womanheart knows the violence that fearful white persons inflict upon one another and on the world. For example…I come from a peace-church lineage, though I’m more steeped in the Presbyterian-Protestant traditions now. My family has long sadly-but-bemusedly shared the story about the Anabaptist (Protestant, professing believer’s baptism not infant baptism) in my lineage who was being chased by a Papist (Catholic, in the language of the day) across a frozen lake somewhere in Europe. There is actually historical record of it. The ice broke beneath the Papist and my ancestor turned around to help him out of the water in which he would have drowned, frozen. When both were safe on the land, the Papist overpowered and then imprisoned my ancestor. He died the next day—beheading, hanging, fire, I don’t remember. White on white violence, in days of old. A distant cousin of mine who served in the Mennonite Church at the global level brought a letter of reconciliation of this history to the pope himself, maybe 10 years ago now? All that to say, the violence that fearful white people inflict on one another and on the world is in my DNA, as trauma in my ancestral lineage. I felt fear and am not afraid to name it aloud.


I also name it because I think that is precisely one of the hopes and desires of these caravans that seem to be popping up on the weekends, on a Sunday morning in this case. FEAR US. Be afraid, like you used to be. This is certainly not the only aim, I would imagine. A college friend observed that the lack of sports gatherings gives no outlet for this behavior, so these caravans do. Men and their minions can "peacock" all they want in their large trucks with big flags. Good point, that. But I suspect fear is one of the aims, however (un)conscious. I think many want to instill fear in an accustomed, power-over attempt to silence or control all those whom this candidate disdains, outright condemns. Persons and populations traditionally silenced and marginalized, but who are now gaining clearer voices and presence in mainline awareness. [Think about that—mainline, like there are those who count as in line with the main (the man?), and those who are not willing to stand in that line any longer… One of the images that we will need to let go so to be transformed from the inside…?). I’m a white woman with incredible privilege, able to even “speak Evangelical” in my own settings and not get attacked (or lynched). And I felt fear, viscerally.


Fear is an interesting and inviting thing these days, if you think about it. Fear only has control when your mind is in the past, sad or angry for what you’ve lost, or your mind is in the future, uncertain and angry about what might happen. When you stay in the present? What rises most is curiosity and compassion. An intrigue with the human condition, how we act so strangely sometimes when we are afraid. I know I can act perceivedly strangely when I am in the thralls of fear.


But now, on this side of seeing the caravans of citizens, and viscerally feeling the fear they may have wanted to bring into the world, I mostly just feel a sadness and a hope that the fears that bind them so unconsciously may be released, gently. When human beings are feeling something that we cannot admit to ourselves, or that we do not want to be accountable for, we repress awareness of it and project it onto those outside of us. Men do this. Women do this. You do this. I do this. These caravans of citizens are projecting their fears everywhere they drive, not unlike a flame-thrower on the highways of our country.

And yet…knowing that this caravan is projecting a fear, a bravado when what lies beneath is assuredly scared, insecure…? Those who used to know their voices prioritized no longer find that to be the only case. Afraid. Those who used to feel in control of civic events and norms no longer are, completely. Afraid. Those who do not know how to live in a world where their own faces are not constantly mirrored in news, tv, media, but now faced with new faces, new voices, new faiths… so disorienting and fearful. I bow to the experience of that, the inability to come to speech about it for fear of “losing faith” or “being deemed weak in faith or loyalty or patriotism.” This the binding of the White Man and his minions. The enraged and obsessive focus on freedom screamed from the truck-beds and rooftops of automobiles only points to the bondage being endured, silenced, mute.


So there is also now a softness in my belly for them, for the White Man unconscious and so resistant to himself, to vulnerability, to surrender that would actually free him. There are white men who model a different way, a healing presence, which can invite a more humane, liberating way…but the fear binds. The inability to speak of fear binds.


Of course there is a fierceness in my belly at the very same time, somehow, that everything I get to do—writing, listening, holding space, inviting—will simply hold up a mirror to all of us in our human condition, mired in fear. Let the fear that seems so projected out in the world in these caravans soften your heart for goodness in the world. Not to harden your heart. Let a gentle fierceness strengthen your resolve—not from an angry or disdainful place, but a soft, gentle place—let it strengthen your resolve to invite the voices you have not heard, to welcome the stranger (to you) into the center (of what you value). Know your own strength to stand there too, curious, unafraid.


True freedom comes in the awareness that always, in human life, New Life must increase, and What Came Before must decrease. John the Baptist says this about Jesus. Jesus says this about the Holy Spirit (though theologians will pick at my attempts to make a point more than a pristine theological doctrine). This leaning into 'decrease' is almost not personal, just human. It is not unloving or false. It is excruciatingly/exquisitely intimate where we fear most. This cycle is what the (conscious) feminine body knows every month—possibility of new life (eggs), birthing considerations, relinquishing of the eggs (menstruation). The moon too…New Moon, completely ‘absent’ but present, waxing to Full Moon, then waning into the darkness, the New to come.


Part of me is exhausted with naming this kind of work in the world, but it seems to have a key toward unlocking citizenship for us all somehow. With the least amount of violence... For how long does it always have to come back to the fear and insecurities of the white men most in power, most in fear of losing power? It’s exhausting to engage this work and persistently refuse to enable white men’s fears. It takes disregarding his antics, when he whimpers in pain and when he roars in bravado. It takes becoming present with him, unafraid and patient, trusting that he truly will wake up to the world changing around him, how an interdependent age will nourish and free him too. What I like at the heart of this is that citizenship has, at root, a care for the other at its foundation. Yes, even if that other shows no care for you. [Great West Wing episode on this...Midterms in the title...Protecting the country even for those who are trying to dismantle it, damage those whom they fear...]. Any notion of citizenship that might come into shape in these musings over time needs to have this at the root of it. For me.


The ecozoic age struggling to be born (to use a term from Thomas Berry I learned this weekend) will offer gifts we cannot see and free us all in ways we cannot know yet. The storm will probably get worse before it gets better, but when we learn to let go of our own private center, to allow a new more expansive Center, more of us will land together in a gentler, more interdependent relationship with the earth, with the Feminine, with a healed Masculine. Yes, my task here has been to name one of the challenges here is inviting white men so resistant to what they yearn for most to relinquish, to let go…into what they desire most. This requires them learning the strength to surrender (and all those who want (white) (macho-strong) men to protect them at the sacrifice of their own humanity to learn to awaken). It requires those of us most privileged to counter our own internal resistances, hold our own excessive fragility, and show up saying "Let us decrease, so that you may increase." One could argue that's not very American, but it was George Washington. It has been every President before this one, letting his power go to the next Bearer of the Office. This relinquishment takes strength and integrity. Surrender is not victimhood, but a spiritual jujitsu known only from the inside. Collective strength only in vulnerability welcomed, borne.


So here, I guess the Feminine in me calls forth this Masculine to heal himself… All of us are waiting, urgently, acting, doing our best. And we will wait for everyone who wants to do his own Work, though we don’t actually have much more time on blessed Mother Earth.





  1. As I read this I remember my time at a Trump rally. 2 years ago I was holding a sign protesting immigration policies. I had been a bit afraid, it was my first ever. There was hate and what surprised me were the women. They looked so 'normal' and yet all the hate aimed at me. I tend to be blind to bigotry and racism in women. I thought it would be only men to fear. And to be honest I wasn't afraid of the women just completely stunned that women could be so full of hate. I think of us as the bearers of truth and life and love I guess. And I suppose that's a call to look more deeply at myself and what I might be capable of without realizing.

    1. Thanks, Ellen, for this glimpse... I, too, share that blind-spot or openness to trust women more initially than men...which can be surprising today. Grounding in the Good, keeping my feet on the earth, pulling back when I need to... Deep breath... :)


ENACTING Beloved Community

This is a phrase that undergirds the work of C. Anthony Hunt (or here ) as well as a curricular goal of one of United Seminary’s Immersion...