I’m reading a book called Benediction by Kent Haruf. It’s one of those that I’m forcing myself to finish for reasons I can’t comprehend. It’s annoying. Damn-near all dialogue and not a single quotation mark.
There’s a scene in which a preacher pisses off his congregation by suggesting that loving thine enemy and turning the cheek might be literal expressions of Jesus’ teaching and not a mere metaphorical for living peaceably. He preaches, many congregants walk out, cursing him after he postulates that America, as a government and society, could do just that.
Not only does a large part of his congregation walk out on him, his wife later publicly announces she’s going to do the same to the remaining congregation. This is part of the ensuing conversation (I’m adding the quotation marks here because there’s no need for all of us to be annoyed):
“All right,” Lyles wife said. “I’ll admit he has his principles. I am aware of that. I used to admire him for his principles and his generous intentions. But what good are they, finally? You can’t eat them. You can’t depend on them. There’s no security in principles.”
Later, the preacher explains to his two remaining supporters:
“I think I’m done…People don’t want to be disturbed. They want reassurance. They don’t come to church on Sunday morning to think about new ideas or even about important old ones. They want to hear what they’ve been told before, with only some small variation on what they’ve been hearing all their lives, and then they want to go home, eat pot roast and say it was a good service and feel satisfied.”
I’m feeling that preacher in more ways than one. He’s right. The disruption isn’t wanted, but the lip service is. However, here we are. Disrupting right as we move along and no matter how many people turn away from us, in anger or fear.
I’ve been done a few times in the past eighteen months. Stick a fork in me, I cannot go on done. The first time I thought about walking away from all things Fuckery was on October 17, 2017, when Ariel Begay’s body was found. I packed up my things, drove the three hours to be with her mother, and decided half-way there that I wasn’t going back the desert. That fucking desert. Fucking hot, fucking dry, the devil incarnate hiding behind ‘medicine’, evil people doing evil things to children. What the fuck do They think one fucking person can do? I’m not that fucking person! By the time I landed in her front yard, I realized I was lying to myself and that there was no way I was going to leave other victims behind. Who the fuck am I kidding? Don’t be fucking stupid. I cried a lot. I bitched a lot. I found a place to rest and then put on my big girl drawers and went back.
The second time I thought about walking away was a little over a year ago. Profoundly depressed and ashamed and guilt-ridden and angry, I crawled into bed one night determined to pack up and leave the next day. Before my head hit the pillow, the room filled and there She was. In front of masses of other, Older female figures who I described as the Holiest of the Holies, Mother Mary showed herself again. This time there was no pleasant conversation in the kitchen. Without words she didn’t merely ask, she didn’t demand or argue; she beseeched and her plea was like no other I’ve felt except, perhaps, my own prayers as a child. The others stood behind her, saying nothing but Being with a strength and power that I’d not felt in a looooong time. The collective, halos aglow, prayed ‘don’t go’. What was I going to do with an ask like that? Say no? I stayed in the desert another two months until it was clear that I was under physical surveillance from 200 yards away and that not only was I in deep doo-doo but I might end up in deep sand pretty quick.
In the run-up to Christmas, I considered walking away again. With little support, multiple dangers, some masked as men in blue, a quick cost-benefit analysis seemed to make the decision an easy one. The impetus to carry on in December, though, didn’t come from another plea but in being spectacularly pissed off that another highly-regarded organization was identified as involved in the Fuckery. Simple rage and indignation fueled re-engagement. How dare those in the US Armed Forces be part of this?!! Not that it was a real surprise. Soldiers around the world have been part of moving slaves as long as slavery has been around. The stories of rape as a weapon abound and the United Nations’ Blue Helmets involvement in trafficking is well documented. But, my country’s soldiers and seamen? And so we’ve carried on.
If I could argue with the preacher’s wife (which, admittedly, I sort of did by talking to the page like I do the GPS), I’d tell her that the only security may be in that principle of loving, of loving no matter what, no matter how much it scares other people, or confuses them. Or ourselves.
This is about the love for a little girl with a pink rose in her hair, for the Ariel’s of the world whose prayers have been heard, for the love of the Ancestors and Others for whom I work, for those whose own despair and desperation leads to the highest order of human cruelty. It is with the deepest love as the guiding principle that we carry on.