my grandmother passed last saturday. and my ten year old daughter cried into the night because her grandmother "left this world." but gram lived to be 91 years old. she was born and raised in birmingham, alabama. she lived through jim crow, segregation, the Great Depression, countless lynchings, a church bombing where she lost a childhood friend, and more than a few wars. she lived long enough to hold both of her great grands in her arms and watch them grow into young girls just stepping close to womanhood. perhaps this is a small thing in this world.
the beloved congo
the world's hands are bloody.
i want to celebrate the life of my grandmother. i want to celebrate the remarkable in an ordinary life. i want to honor her transition with continued movement and truth-telling, 'cause she never bit her tongue or held back on setting folks straight, even when it was uncomfortable. but how do i do this when there is so much death around me? if it is a celebration, it is a humble one.
my daughter asks me why God could not save her great grandmother if God could give her life. i tell her that gram's pact with God had been fulfilled; i tell her that her body was tired and that her spirit had to move on, elevate, and guide the lives of those less evolved in this world. i told my daughter that she now has a special angel walking with her ... one who knows and loves her well.
but how do we move forward with the blood of the world on our hands? my grandmother died of her own will. there were no bombs or guns, no hands stopped her breaths. she crossed over graceful and eased, trusting that her family would gather together in her absence, creating a fortress for one another.
what of the world and this family we make? how do we hold one another accountable for the ego maniacal leaders of the world ... those who dare to judge lives as insignificant or necessary fall-out in the rush for money and power? how do we celebrate one man's rise to power by drinking til the wee morning hours while countless others hide in their homes, trying desparately to create some sense of calm and safety when that home is being ravaged?
if one people's loss begets another, how close must the violence touch the lives of those in this country before we act and demand meaningful change?
i have often said that the united states' financial crisis has been no stranger to my life for the past ten years. while others have only recently taken notice, strained wages and increasing costs of living have plagued my household for years. the feeling of accomplishment born of college and graduate degrees was quickly replaced with a sobering reality - all of that work won't prevent one's presence in the welfare lines. and the looming shadow of addiction and prison was no stranger, either.
the greed of the world breeds dysfunction and criminality, because there are always many who cannot withstand the glaring imbalances. though we can celebrate the victory of our first "black" president, we are living the truth of a massive absence in our daily lives ... absent men, women and children of color ... those locked behind prison bars, their bodies fueling an economy that does not fail but continues to be exported abroad for the construction of prisons world-wide. there will never be enough prisons, because our global hunger for violence and oppression can only breed a volatile resistance which must be caged or obliterated.
clearly, the united states has effectively silenced many of its own. it has taken generations, but the peculiar institution did not fail. we can only hope that in the universe's tendency to order chaos, the scales will become more balanced.
still, as i watch israel's actions in gaza, and the way the violence of that region has been normalized in our collective psyche, i am more than troubled. the majority of folks only choose to care and take action when said chaos stumbles onto the front yard. we wash the blood from our memories daily ... at the club, on our daily jobs, in our comfortable sleep, in the quick channel change on the flat screen ... but so long as lives are endangered abroad, lives are endangered here. the distance created by water becomes less meaningful everyday.
it is a spiritual war. not a jihad in the way that the word has been thrown around in the media and out of the mouths of those who would claim sacred justification for the desecration of bodies. it is not a "holy" war between organized religions. there is nothing holy or sacred in this, except the actual lives being lost for the gain of a few. and this has nothing to do with religion, although leaders of the world will continue to use that as an opiate to convince masses to support their selfish agendas. and if, for the sake of semantics, we want to place religion at the center of these conflicts, the religion is greed, violence, land, and oil, money and the unequal distribution of power ... the most profane motivations of this world.
it is a spiritual war. it is war between love and hate ... and while it may be said that this war will always exist in this world, because that is the burden of humanity - to constantly reflect and act upon these most basic and fundamental ways of being - i believe that if we could choose love more readily and comprehensively we could evolve and grow stronger as a whole. violence is only one way of living. why have we not tried to create another on a broad scale?
the beloved congo
r.i.p. sadye gwendolyn harris james, one brilliant shining star of many crossing over ...