As the American Indian elder spoke about the travesties his native people endured, I looked around the circle of people gathered and I saw people who all had ancestors who suffered at the hands of others. We could all claim to be the victims and even perpetrators of colonialism going back before the time of the Romans.
My ancestors were Irish. They suffered under the colonization of the Romans followed by the British for centuries, culminating in the great potato famine of the 1840s where millions faced starvation or getting on ships bound for America. Those that survived the ocean passage often encountered hateful discrimination and “No Irish Need Apply” signs.
My ancestors survived and even thrived. But even now, my family holds a residual grudge against the British.
Next to me was a Jewish woman who had family members killed in German concentration camps during the Holocaust. She was taught to hate the Germans for this. A man across the circle from me was black. I wondered if his ancestors had any choice at all in coming to America or were captured and enslaved.
As I considered all the holocausts, wars, slavery, indentured servitudes and genocides that the ancestors of everyone in the room had endured, I realized we all came from indigenous people at one time and that we’ve all been alienated, indoctrinated and colonized to some degree. I felt called to speak to the elder Indian and those gathered in this sharing circle.
I shared with him that my ancestors had been wild pagan Celts living in Ireland back when it was forested, before the British cut down the forests to build their imperial navy. They lived much as the American Indians had lived – in close relationship with the earth.
Then my namesake, “Saint Patrick” from Italy, landed into Ireland around 400 AD and began the process of colonizing their minds and converting them into “Roman Catholics”. This was followed by political and economic domination by the British for centuries.
I also pointed out some of the ancestral stories of others in the room, not to compete for the title of most righteously victimized, but rather to share that we all had a justification for hating others, if we we look back far enough.
I then asked when do we all “bury the hatchet” (and not in someone’s head)? When do we stop grinding our axes? When do we but look beyond our victim identity to realize at the depths of our hearts and souls that we are truly one tribe – The Heart Tribe? When do we stop falling prey to the empire’s oldest game of “Divide and Conquer”?
Black, white, brown, yellow, purple, green or rainbow, we are all on the corporate plantation now and buying and working for the corporate “company store” often shopping for boxes, driving in boxes, living in boxes and watching the “news” in a box. Some even live in a cardboard box.
And meanwhile all the hateful separation, race bating, partisan politics, nationalism, vilification of “others”, and gender wars grind on, intensified by the “news” fed to us from our boxes. Many sit home afraid to leave their box and be with “strangers” they’ve been programed to fear and mistrust.
When will we truly be the “Home of the Free and the Brave” and be brave enough to let ourselves and others be free? Who is willing to see and trust in the innate goodness of their fellow citizens and human beings?
There is a war going on now that’s been going on for centuries. It’s a war of ideas and it knows no race or gender boundaries. It is the age old contest between love and fear, freedom or control, peace or disharmony. Which choice we embrace will determine whether our individual and collective lives are Heaven or Hell.
The choice is yours?
The poet/editor of this website is physically disabled, and lives at a fraction of her nation’s poverty level. Contributions may be made at: https://www.gofundme.com/are-you-a-patron-of-the-arts