I am often astonished at well-meaning, spiritual people who advocate
beaming light toward world leaders, who scold activists for expressing
anger toward authorities or police, who define compassion as loving the
enemy -- but somehow lose sight of the need to love our friends, our
allies, and those who suffer at the hands of the perpetrators. I
really don't feel much call to beam love and light at Bush or Cheney or the
directors of the International Monetary Fund. Whether or not they
suffer from lack of love is beyond me. From my perspective, they suffer
from an excess of power, and I feel called to take it away from them.
Because I do love the child in Iraq, the woman in the favela, the
eighteen-year-old recruit to the Marines who never dreamed he was
signing up to bomb civilians. I can't love them, or myself and my
community, effectively if I can't articulate the real differences in
interests and agendas between "us" and "them" -- between those who have
too little social power and those who have too much.
To equalize that power means changing an enormous system. And systems
don't change easily. Systems try to maintain themselves, and seek
equilibrium. To change a system, you need to shake it up, disrupt the
equilibrium. That often requires conflict.
To me, conflict is a deeply spiritual place. It's the high-energy place
where power meets power, where change and transformation can occur.
Part of my own spirituality is the conscious practice of placing myself in
places of conflict. As someone in the Pagan Cluster said after the
February 15  antiwar rally in New York, which was seriously harrassed by
the police, "When everyone else was running away from trouble, we were
running toward it." I run toward it because I generally believe I can be
useful there -- sometimes de-escalating potential violence, sometimes just holding a clear intention in the midst of chaos,
sometimes just as a witness.
You should never
have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for
freedom and truth.
-- Henrik Ibsen
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the
lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends
forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a
million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples
build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of
oppression and resistance.
-- Robert Kennedy, in a speech in South Africa, 1966