Sunday, July 3, 2016

Interdependence Day

The holiday is about "independence". We should all reflect on what that means. We should be thankful, yes, but also mindful of the tremendous costs of freedom, choice, relationship, unintended consequences, and war. A recognition of interdependence is necessary at this point in human history. Let us pray for that, even as we remember the costs dearly paid for our constitution, in life, in liberty and in happiness.
~ Elisabeth T. Eliassen, Facebook entry July 3, 2010 
I was reading today’s issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. Homelessness has been at the heart of all the reporting in the Chronicle, this week, culminating in the front page being complete devoted to an editorial on the issue of homelessness, in San Francisco but also everywhere.

Reading further into the paper, I struck by a comment from Willie Brown’s column. He wrote, “The goal of any movement for freedom and justice is ultimately to work itself out of business.” I think he is correct in his assertion, but frankly, the long road toward such eventualities stretches before us.

Identity politics is a thing precisely because freedom and justice are not available for all. Law is not justice when there are double standards; law is only successful when it meets the needs and situations of all. Instead, what we find, over and over again, is that law is created and applied divisively. Some have access, while others do not.

What we need to evolve beyond, as a race of beings we call “humanity,” is the notion that inhumanity is okay. Inhumanity is never okay, just like being a bully is never okay. But, while power and privilege are constantly being called into question, they are never being addressed for what they are: Deep societal deficits and ills. Is the billionaire better than the homeless person living under an overpass? That is entirely the wrong question to be considering, but laws and programs seem to lean in favor and support those who have everything but need. Programs for people in need are authored in nonsensical terms and conditions, meted out in nonsensical ways from locations not sensible to the transit needs of those without transit.

But to look deeper, we have got to see that, to echo the immortal words of Langston Hughes, the dream has been deferred for too many, and not by accident. There is been a dark and fatal intentionality about inequality and the plaque buildup of political walls, separating every single demographic that is used as a measurement. This is “divide and conquer.”  

“United we stand; divided we fall” sums it up beautifully, whether filtered through the Aesop fables, the gospel of Mark, Patrick Henry, or any other source. As Americans, we claim the first clause as our national gospel, but that is not the reality here. Division is our meat and potatoes, or at least it is food for some.

These states are united, except that they really are not. The people are united, except that they really are not. Why is it that the haves and have nots are now divided over who has a right to use a public toilet? It is as ridiculous a political ploy as any schoolyard bully’s power trip over a shy and fragile child. Ridiculous! And insulting!

If these states are to live up to the label “United,” we need to grow up. The schoolyard bully games are played in order to veil corruption, the kind of corruption that allows fewer people to have what they need, so that a few can have more than they could ever use. We need to grow up, to realize that all people are important, have a place and a vital role in our diverse society.

We are not independent. “Independence” is a lie that people use as a rhetorical tool to deny dignity and wellbeing to others. We must learn about dignity and that it is applicable everywhere. We must learn about our interdependence on each other.

We are all, whether we recognize this or not, teachers. But what are we teaching? I look around and I see some people learning anger, disappointment and deviousness; I look around and I see other people learning about value, generosity and kindness. I wish all teachers were among this later group; such are the people who understand true citizenship.

The dream can only become reality if we march forward as global citizens, but we have to become good citizens here at home; it all begins at home. Business and law need to serve human dignity, not the other way around. We need to march forward, not as individual political blocks pitted against each other, but as citizens who are for everyone’s success.

“When will we be satisfied?” Dr. King asked. I take a liberty to update the words from his immortal speech when I say that “we can never be satisfied as long as” any of our people “are stripped of their dignity. We cannot be satisfied as long as” people “are denied the vote, or believe they have nothing for which to vote.” We cannot be satisfied as long as we remain dysfunctionally disunited, as long as we fail to live out our creed that all are created equal.

We cannot be satisfied until the dream becomes a reality for every person.

© 2015 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen