Every time I read anything Barbara Kingsolver writes I feel as though I am in the hands of a gentle masseuse working over the knotty areas of my consciousness that keep me separated in fear and judgement from those who are so different from me; either uneducated, poor, physically or mentally challenged, rich or simply brought up in a different culture. Ms. Kingsolver writes about climate change and the endless wars created by the unending consumption of fossil fuels as well as the damage being done to all sentient life and the air, water and soil that sustains us all. Ms. Kingsolver is also an expert on the subject and writes with the authority of one who has endless knowledge and experience in this area. But the impact of her words comes from the way she writes that goes beyond knowledge, education and even experience.
Unlike the scientific writing that speaks only to educated and subordinates those who may not accept these facts, Kingsolver first goes to the “heart” of the matter, examining first her humanness and then connecting on a larger level with her audience that excludes no one. As I have been reading her collection of essays, entitled “Small Wonder,” I am once again reminded that I need to approach anything I write on any subject in this manner. Recently, I have re-entered the field of education and taken it upon myself in retirement to perhaps offer what I know and have experienced as something to help guide others through the maze of misunderstandings and polarization that is of deep concern to me.
I have been watching the events unfurl at the national level as we all have and have been assessing any fear and judgement of the current administration as it conflicts with my own resistance to change. I am a historian and strongly believe that those who refuse to learn the lessons from history will continue to repeat the actions, thus stifling the growth of humanity in general. I have seen this happen and even wrote my first book about the development of American history based on what I perceive to be mistakes that need to be addressed as we face the challenges created by these acts in the 21st Century.
I also believe that as a nation we have stopped reading and stopped looking at our society with a critical eye and base all of our responses upon the limited world of our own egos and the small area of love that is only as big as the circle of our own arms. This is definitely judgmental, but I have approached this through the first person because I have come to this belief after a breakdown that forced me to first learn these things about myself. Since that time my mantra has been “be the change you want to see.” And so, I asked myself this question last night as I watched events unfold with the current administration that pulled me back into judgement and condemnation, the very acts I witnessed from our new President, especially his ideas on torture and his inability to start a free and open debate with those who disagree with him. What do I need to change in myself was the question I posed as I closed my eyes to ponder this before going to sleep. The answer came right away, “You must love Donald Trump and try to come into any critique of his actions from that standpoint.” Wow! What a challenge.
I spent a long night releasing fear, anger and judgement, not thinking about any of my wonderful solutions I could offer to the world to make things better. When I awoke, I had a strange feeling of peace, free from the shadow of depression that had clouded my world for the past month. I sat down with my coffee and picked up “Small Wonder” and began to read the essay on “Flying” which was about Kingsolver’s response to the attacks on September 11th. I was once again in awe of the way she expressed deep understanding and compassion for the people who died on that day, not the political ramifications of war. She expanded the feelings of those Americans to the larger world where every day seems to be a September 11th. As I read the essay two quotes stood out in my That quote reminded me of what I heard Donald Trump declare about torture last night. “I don’t like seeing Christians beheaded and anything that works to stop that is okay.” These are not his exact words, but what I inferred from his words. I had a hard time loving any person who could say that, but I worked on it last night. That was my challenge last night as I wrestled with this. My answer to my response to this came in a second quote that I read this morning, “and I can make no claim to goodness until I can prove that mean people have not made me mean.”
Her final words about our response to the attack on 911 came not from her but from the father of Oscar Rodriquez who died that day. “I know there is anger; I feel it myself. But I don’t want my son used as a pawn to justify the killing of others. We, as a nation, should not use the same means as the people who attacked us.”