I had little interest in history, national or world, until I read Howard Zinn’s: A People’s History of the United States. From there I was drawn to historical accounts of US courts awarding corporate entities more legal rights than we hum
an persons are granted by our Constitution. Too, I read of class, labor, gender and racial injustices in the USA during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Three years ago I began and continue to read Eastern and Western accounts of the Crusades and subsequent events in the Near and Middle East. Reading (or hearing) historical accounts of events three thousand, or three minutes ago, I am aware of the African maxim “When lions have chroniclers, the story of the hunt will be different.”
This awareness notwithstanding, I tend to have little interest in the specifics of what “we” and “they” say; rather, there are larger patterns of greater importance present. One pattern: Whether the hunter is regaling us or the lion, what is being revealed betrays the teller’s desire for a favorable future, and if necessary at the expense of the other.
Recently while reading Lesley Hazleton’s After the Prophet I apprehended for the first time that we contemporary peoples are behaving as brutally as those who came before. The intellectual understandings of such things I had previously entertained paled with this new visceral awareness.
Other patterns: I see too that the same divisive skills were deployed then as now: Eloquent rhetorical narrative and pretext, the skillfully feigned congruence of orators and writers, and a reliance on the continued self-effacing and diminishing conformity of assent by leadership’s various publics.
A final pattern: It is neither we and they/us and them! Nor does proffering good and evil suffice: Both exacerbate and confound our circumstance. The pattern I point toward is my failure and your failure to move into the place of the individual sovereignty of our unity.
I wonder: • What can I let go of that perpetuates a diminishing of self and other, and my own brutal thought and action? • What movements can I begin now and thus weave a narrative cloak of such life-affirming warmth that my heart thaws from its closed stasis? • What can I move into believing that gives rise within myself to the qualities of character on which human decency, kindness, compassion, patience, the appreciation of difference has expression in my daily life? • What other movements await my consent?
Maybe it is time to take a discontinuous leap into a different future!