There is a thing I say to myself and to others, six words of truth I believe hold infinite power. A life’s motto, if you will:
“Beloved, Be Loved.
Beloved, Be Love.”
It’s been harder to say recently because I’ve been sick, and tired, and depressed, and always, always so angry.
The endless reports of promised devastation to the most vulnerable, in the form of funding cuts to social services and safety nets, coming from this administration (from Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security and healthcare to NPR/PBS to protections and provisions for student loan forgiveness and repayment to limiting the kinds of foods impoverished and hungry neighbors and their kids can buy with EBT; cuts that kill already broken people) coupled with promises of bloated financial offerings to obscene recipients (like tax cuts for the uber-wealthy and money for walls and funding for ICE to tear fathers from their sick babies, students from their schools, and criminalize asylum seekers who came from what they thought was a worse fate but maybe wasn’t) leave me feeling perpetually sucker-punched and helpless.
I am angry and heartbroken all the time. Frustrated and grieved beyond measure that there is no bottom to the fear and loathing of the broken, vulnerable, and oppressed. Just pure hatred.
And it’s nigh impossible to resist being dragged into the melee and joining in the hate.
So it’s serendipitous that I also happen to be re-reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind In The Door with my 6-year-old, Eli. It’s a story about Creators and Destroyers, Namers and Un-Namers, Makers and X-ers.
Really, it’s a story about us:
There are those in this country, world, universe who will always seek to X out others, to X out life. They gain life for themselves only by stealing Life from others, and devote themselves to the Un-Naming of all that Is. They’re intent on doing what Maya Angelou described as “calling people out of their Names” — defining, discriminating, diminishing, and ultimately discarding people due to circumstance and situation, according to the arbitrary measure of their melanin, wealth, power, or influence. And it’s exceedingly hard not to fight against them but to choose instead to rally protectively for the bullied.
But I’ve been repeatedly reminded lately, by L’Engle and Angelou and some wise friends on social media (they exist!) that to pivot is holy. To shift focus from the X-ers to the Namers and the Un-Named is sacred work.
I don’t know if X-ers ever become Namers, but I know intimately how quickly Namers can forget ourselves and, enraged, become destroyers. I also know there are people out there who aren’t yet either Namers or X-ers, and they’re up for grabs to both sides.
So the trick, the magic, the calling, and the power of the powerless is in remembering to be Named Namers.
Against systems of power (and the people they empower) which come like thieves to kill, steal, and destroy, the only things we can and therefore must do with persistent resistance are Create, Name, and Breathe Life back into all the things, programs, and especially the people Un-Namers are after.
We can Name
the weak and vulnerable and oppressed as Worthy and Valued Image Bearers who Belong and are Beloved and Matter.
We can Affirm the immeasurable worth and belonging of Dreamers and refugees
and hold up as lighthouses the hopeful comers who’ve built beautiful lives for themselves and all of us by choosing to Create something new rather than be Xed by war or disease or hate — people like Albert Einstein, Ilhan Omar and Wassily Kandinskiy. People like all of us who descend from non-Indigenous immigrants who came with hope and little else to make Us possible.
We can Honor the earth, our mother
who cannot sustain endless exploitation and will die if we don’t act, but who we can save by lifting up and following the lead of Indigenous Water Protectors who for centuries have called to us like a voice in the desert to honor the Creator by partnering with rather than pillaging the earth, and who fight with prayer and worship rather than weapons and wars.
We can Speak out loud, over and over, that Black Lives Matter
We can kneel with Kaepernick, and learn from the legacies of Dr. King and Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. We can tear down racist flags and monuments with Bree Newsom and stand firm with Iesha Evans. We can look to and celebrate the profound artistry of Beyoncé and Benjamin Clementine and Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley who give us a better, more beautiful and accurate lens through which to view and understand Black culture (as opposed to the mythologies of white supremacists). We can listen to and believe Black documentarians who teach us true history and remind us, with centuries of history as proof, that liberation comes not from gaining access or proximity to systems of power, but from the destruction of those systems for the sake of the people. And that our liberation is bound up together — Until all are free, none are free.
We can Create spaces of respite and nourishment for LGBTQIA+ family
who are constantly and explicitly being told they Are Not, and are commanded to X themselves in order to belong. We can join in the song of the All-Gendered God who breathed Godself into us all and made of us a siren to those who are weary of the unbecoming and aching, inviting them to Be. We can do this by following LGBTQIA+ trailblazers like Laverne Cox and Broderick Greer and Jennifer Knapp who Named themselves before and against those who loudly Un-Named them.
Above all, we can commit our attention
to watching for those who’ve been un-Named to come awake, and be ever-present and ready to Name them again. Because the X-ers are lying in wait, too.
Even now — especially now, when so much is beyond our control and when we feel the X-ing daily — we must Name and Honor and Affirm and Speak and Stand and Create the good we want and need.
There are still more Namers than X-ers. And to us I say:
when all else fails,
Beloved, Be Loved. And Be Love.