By John Lee Pendall
It’s hard not to hate. It’s hard for me, too. It can be hard to love. Music helps.
One of my favorite ways to describe emptiness is to compare reality to a song. We’re all instruments, and our lives are the notes we’re playing. There’s no song without the notes and no notes without the song. Our instinctual goal is to play in harmony with each other.
What we’re experiencing right now is an eruption of discord and dissonance caused by a huge section of the orchestra being forcefully silenced by the brass. As contemplatives, it isn’t our job to mold the song into an image of our own views and preferences, it’s our job to harmonize with whatever direction the song goes. When you’re in harmony with the song, then you’re enlightened.
As a white, heterosexual, cisgendered male, I’m being asked to harmonize with this long-muted part of the symphony. I’m being asked to listen and to change. From the other side, I’m being asked by the brass to reject change, to cling to business-as-usual.
But business-as-usual was fucking horrible.
It was horrible for me, which means it’s a thousand times worse for the black community. I was bullied for being different, I’ve always felt oppressed and rejected for being myself, and I’m also weary of all “authorities.” But it’s worse for minorities—far worse.
It’s worse because I was victimized for being a weirdo—African Americans are being brutalized just because of the color of their skin while the “Man on the street” just keeps walking. Who I am has always put me at odds with the rest of the world, but that shouldn’t be the case for something as arbitrary as skin tone.
And now, the people who can empathize with bullied kids who eventually resorted to violence, can’t understand why so many people are rioting and protesting. And where are the armed conservative militias who are so passionate about protecting people’s rights? Are they defending the movement? No, they’re drinking Busch Light on their couches and watching it all unfold on Fox News while surfing the 4Chan forums for new conspiracy theories to satisfy their compulsive fearfulness.
Where are the Christians who ignore the fact that Jesus would’ve been on the frontlines of these protests? He probably would’ve started something on fire if he was involved, he did start a riot in a marketplace after all.
As whites, our role in society is to support and defend those less fortunate than ourselves. We’re supposed to be allies, not opponents. Because we’re the largest section in this symphony, so we have an added responsibility to harmonize with others. As contemplatives, you and I are even more responsible than the general population.
Our role is that of peacekeepers, defenders, advocates and educators.
Whether you’re liberal or conservative, rich or poor, your job is to listen to the cries of the world and soothe the suffering-at-large by diligently working toward harmony. One thing is certain, this is no time for silence. There’s too much at stake to hide away in a cave. In solidarity, it’s time to be yourself. To risk it all for truth and love.
That’s a vital part of this clusterfuck that we have to be mindful of in ourselves: what’s our motive? Are we taking a stand out of hatred for the boot, or love for the person who’s struggling to breathe beneath it? As Buddhism teaches us, our motivation will drastically change the outcome.
So I’m calling for all the white moderates who don’t know which side to take, to side with love. To remember the flower children of the 60s and realize that what we ultimately need is to elevate our hearts and minds. When we’re guided by unconditional love for our common humanity, then we’ll always make the right choice, we’ll always harmonize with the whole.
Without love, we’re hopeless. Without a firm commitment to peace, we have no future. This is a wake up call. Stand up for love, stick up for those who just want to live in peace. Listen to the music.
In the end, all we’re asking for is accountability, for those in charge to be held accountable for their actions the same way the rest of us are. Is that too ridiculous to comprehend? Someone shouldn’t be exempt from the law just because we pay them to enforce it. How could we ever have allowed police departments to be militarized? How could we have allowed a huge part of the population to be oppressed to the point that they have to riot to be heard?
Because we haven’t been listening.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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