“Our leaders try to make ‘agitator’ a pejorative. It was agitators that formed this country. Were it not for agitators, we'd all be wearing powdered wigs and singing ‘God Save the Queen.’”
“Aren't we privileged to live in a time when everything is at stake, and when our efforts make a difference in the eternal contest between the forces of light and shadow, between togetherness and division? Between justice and exploitation? Oh, be joyful that you are a warrior in this great time! . . . Will we rise to this battle? If so, we cannot lose, for rising up to it is our victory. . . . If we represent love in the world, you see, we have already won.”
--Doris “Granny D” Haddock from her 93rd birthday speech
How many of y’all have felt angry, sad, depressed, fatigued or hopeless during the past few weeks? Yep, me too. And a lot of other folks I’ve talked too have been in a similar place. We thought that through our prayers and actions we could stop our nation from embarking on the war against Iraq. But in the end, we couldn’t.
I was so cranky that I launched into some anger therapy that I learned years ago—whacking my bed full force with my old wooden tennis racquet with “Night on Bald Mountain” playing deafeningly in the background. I used this practice every day for about a month after a particularly painful divorce, and while it was effective then, this time no such luck.
Finally last Saturday I decided to deal with the one thing I can control—my mind. I can’t direct what the president does. I can’t change what has already happened. I can take charge of what’s going on between my ears. I can quit blaming others and take responsibility for my life and my role in the condition of our world.
Doris “Granny D” Haddock, an activist who walked 3,200 miles across America in 1999 to call attention to how money is corrupting the U.S. political system, said in her ninety-third birthday speech, “We cannot have world peace without peace in our own lives. We cannot attack our planet by the way we live, and then go off to a peace rally and hope to set right all the imbalance we have caused. Peace is first a private matter. It cannot grow except from there.”
We can wish that our governments weren’t pursuing their political ends through violent means. We can desire leadership that builds connection with other peoples rather than division. We can hope for a culture that doesn’t devour its natural resources like there’s no tomorrow. But what are we willing to do in our personal lives to help create such a society? Will we take the radical responsibility for everything that comes our way including our culture as it now exists? Because, whether we want to admit it or not, through our actions (and our inaction) we have helped to create it.
Again, Granny D: “Sanity is in finding alternative energy rather than blowing up our Appalachian Mountains for their coal. Sanity is in buying bicycles or at least hybrid cars rather than bombing other people for their oil. It is in supporting our family farmers, especially the organic farmers, rather than suburbanizing all our land and turning to factory foods that are more health hazard than nutrition.”
Many of us have recently been called into action, some for the first time, to work for peace only to find out that peace is a process rather than an end in itself. And while we may not have prevented the war, we still have much to do—in our personal lives, our communities, our nation and our world.
How can we create the world we wish to see? We can make conscious choices about the food we eat, the clothes we buy, the mode of transportation we choose, the resources we use. We can let go of resentment, anger and ill will toward one another, those in other lands, even those leaders whose actions we disagree with. We can awaken from the fantasies that advertisers and marketers would sell us and live lives of authenticity and fulfillment. We can work together for personal empowerment and grassroots democracy. We can enjoy the time we have on this planet. We can laugh and sing and dance and love together.
We are powerful. We are wise. We are resourceful. And if we stand together now we can create the vision we have for our world . . . beginning with our own daily lives.
Hear Granny D, Jim Hightower and others at the Rolling Thunder Downhome Democracy Tour at the Asheville (NC) Civic Center Saturday, May 3. Check out http://main.nc.us/rollingthunder for more information.
Readers can contact Bruce Mulkey via e-mail at email@example.com. Visit his website at www.brucemulkey.com.