"...So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive."
—Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival”
Some days ago, a member of my congregation asked me how I’m coping with all that’s going on: a pandemic with no end in sight; the continuous loop of Black men being killed by vigilante police officers; a president who delights in stoking the fires of suspicions, resentment, and animosity among people as a way of furthering his autocratic agenda and his open fantasies of dictatorship. As if that were not enough, even the sun appeared to lose some of its shine because of the smoke of western wildfires darkening the skies.
This was before the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg—God rest her soul, and save us all.
How do I not fall to pieces every day, in a world so clearly on the very edge of a vast chasm, and anarchy in every valley down below? Everything is bewildering in this brave new world, with its checklist of 2020 anxieties. What can save us from the madness of despair in this context?
I told my parishioner that the thing that helps me is remembering that I am not alone in all of this. Yes, I have people around me—my wife, our families—but better still, I have the people who came before me. I have ancestors who were never meant to survive, but they did: they survived the sugar plantations of Haiti, the occupation of their land by American forces in the 20th century—not once, but twice—brutal dictatorships, exile.
I have ancestors and contemporaries who survived the upheavals of the 1960s in the United States, the riots in the cities across the nation, the crack epidemic and the AIDS epidemic, and the violence of New York City against Black people, immigrants, gay people—all during times when the very future of that place was an open question.
I am my ancestors’ wildest dream come true, and I would not be here if it weren't for their dreamings, their hopes, and most importantly their living. None of us would be here were it not for those who lived and won a fight that they were not meant to survive.
That's what helps me. What helps you?
Oneness of Life and Love, spirit of our ancestors, help us to transform our fears into the courage needed to create the world we desire.