This article is in response to a section from Creating a World That Works for All - by Sharif Abdullah. The chapter is WORDS THAT WORK FOR THE CENTER - AND ALL OTHERS and specifically in response to pgs. 105 - 107
The following are a few paragraphs from the book by Sharif Abdullah. You will see my reasoning once you read the very timely words of this author. See you on the other side:
Most of our current social, environmental, political and economic change agents, no matter what their ideology, hold to a single belief: “The Center is okay.” For decades, the operative theory of activism has been that we would help those who are not okay to move toward the Center, so then they would be okay, too.
Economic advocates want poor people to get jobs, because people with jobs are “okay.” Housing advocates want people to live in standard housing, because people who have standard housing are “okay.”
The theory was never true, and its falseness has never been clearer than today. The Center is far from okay; it is deeply disturbed, a growing cancer within. And many of us who are in the Center know we are in trouble. Regardless of the lack of labels for our malady, we are aware that something is wrong. Those of us who achieved the media-touted dream of a career, suburban lifestyle, and consumer abundance know that our lives are hollow. As one of my friends said, “I’ve been on this train for a long time. I just recently realized that there’s no town down those tracks - the train just keeps going.”
“THE WHITE MAN IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES”
I was in the middle of a grueling series of workshops: four-hour sessions twice a day for a month. The workshop participants were roadworkers, the bluest of blue-collar workers, primarily white males who had been ordered to be in my workshops on change and diversity. Despite initial hostility, the sessions were going extremely well.
In the middle of a session, Sam, a thin, twenty-something man with blond curls under his baseball cap, raised his hand and said, “The white man is an endangered species!” I smiled, and said something to humor him, and continued on. A few minutes later, Sam put up his hand and said something similar. I again turned him off.
His hand went up a third time. “You’re not listening to me!” I took a breath and said: “You’re right, I’m not listening. We’re going to take a five-minute break and I’m going to center myself so that when we come back, I will be listening.”
When we returned, I invited Sam to explain his remarks. “It’s not the colored people who are in trouble. It’s not the women who are in trouble. All of us are in trouble! How can I be concerned about someone else when it’s my butt on the line too? I can’t respect some movement that doesn’t understand that the whole boat is going down! We can’t work for the minorities or for the women - we’ve got to work for everyone!”
Sam was right. He’s in trouble and he knows it. Hearing talk about someone else’s problems
while his are ignored can only infuriate him. As a political satirist Molly Ivins once said, “Bubba’s in trouble and the only one who acknowledges his trouble is Rush Limbaugh.”
We ignore Sam and Bubba at our peril.What happens when someone who feels endangered is not heard? Those who blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, taking 168 lives, were of the Heartland, not the periphery. Apparently, the explosion was an expression of their emptiness, their spiritual hunger. The Center ( where we assume everyone is ) is not okay.
We have been asking Sam and Bubba to change for the sake of people they don’t know and perhaps don’t like. No one wants to be pressured, shamed and manipulated into changing for someone else’s sake. This effort creates its own resistance. The most effective way to promote change is to show a person that it is in his own self-interest. The slogan “Save the Earth!” should be amended to “Save Your Own Butt - And the Earth, Too!”
We can advocate changes on the periphery all we want. We can even narrow the definition of our world so that the periphery looks like the whole world. But until we catalyze a shift in consciousness for all 260 million of us in this country, and all 6 billion of us on this planet, nothing significant will change.
I think the author is correct in his perspective that “no one has been listening to Bubba except Rush Limbaugh”. And, unfortunately, Donald J. Trump. DT listened deeply to Bubba and as a result, got himself elected as POTUS.
I, for one, fret, almost every day, over the constant barrage of middle of the night tweets, messages that emerge out of the White House, news reports/updates from Sean Spicer and what seems like daily alarming news alerts coming out of Washington, D.C. It can be debilitating to hear the angry rhetoric of the people who are leading our country knowing full well that they represent a voice that could be detrimental to our country. Quite frankly, though DT was listening to “Bubba” I don’t think he truly intends to represent that, or any other segment of our country. I think he intends to represent himself and his business interests, exclusively.
If I am to believe what Mr. Abdullah has reflected to us, that “no one has been listening to Bubba,” then I can be certain that I am actually to blame for a part of this. I, for one, have been on the firing line wanting others to hear me and to understand me.
I could go on and on as to why DT’s constituency should understand me and, quite frankly, at first glance, feel insulted and outraged at the suggestion that I should listen to him and his followers. After all, as a woman, haven’t I been forced to listen to “Bubba” long enough? Haven’t I seen him, “Bubba,” make sexual assault-like comments to women walking down the street; spew epithets towards innocent arrivals to this country, trying to make a way for their families, like his ancestors did; hang onto gun rights even in the face of massacres of small children, communities sharing the bible, teens in high schools and movie theatres and colleges; raise his fist in anger about other people taking away his jobs and threatening his home; judge people who are not like him and naming them with vitriol; haven’t I seen “Bubba” sucker-punch people who are expressing their First Amendment Rights? Why, then, should I have to sit still and listen to him? Them?
I should, I have to, because, and I still wrangle with this, he is a person.
It is my job as a Religious Scientist to know that as a person, he is a divine being, who is just like me and
deserves to be loved, heard, seen, accepted, just like me. It does not give him carte blanche to do whatever he feels like doing. However, he does deserve, just like me, to be heard. Not shouted down. Not ignored. Not forced to accept things that go against his grain.
As I write this I think about all that I have been forced to swallow, all that goes against my grain, all that I witness knowing that my voice can never fully be heard about whatever it is that might be troubling me. However, I am certain that the Center that Abdullah references, that has been promised each of us, is actually a pipe-dream dangled in front of my blindered mule-like self. That pipe-dream was never satisfactory to me in the first place and is no longer satisfactory to anyone who has been striving for the middle. Much chaos has ensued post election and I think the person who elected DT has been watching, shaking his proverbial head, wondering what all the hullabaloo is all about. After all, with DT in place, he has won, hasn’t he? So, now that the scales have tipped and DT’s constituency is on the up side of the equation, the only way to get to the Center for everyone, whatever that might be for each of us, is to get into the Center of it all and start the conversation.
I am willing to start.
Please, leave your gun at the door and let’s talk.