Before I was a white woman…

The news of the day is Trump voters feeling betrayed and I awoke pondering patriarchy and the destructive social (and economic) systems with which we unwittingly make pacts.

That Trump voters are experiencing broken promises is really no surprise. Hierarchical dehumanizing systems are constructed with human carnage at their very foundation. The human ego has an unparalleled elasticity that enables us to construct, and indeed escape to, alternative realities where we find ourselves superior and our concerns central. So long as we are compelled with belief, we will march in lock step off the cliff. Indeed, we are now doing so.

Lest we miss the hook, I would suggest that we look much closer to home. As a woman who actively resists the white patriarchal capitalist machine, I was surprised to discover that I’d raised a son who didn’t. Equally I have been surprised to discover how patriarchy functions, post divorce, in my extended family of origin. I type these words and would love to rant, but the real concern is not the persistence of patriarchy but rather the surprise of the one who claims to resist.

Despite my commitment to the politics, despite my work in the institution of church, and dogged work on theological language and imagery, the bottom line is that I lived in, fed on, and profited from an institution built by the white patriarchal capitalist system. I was in it. My children were washed in the waters not only of the mythic blood of Jesus but the brick and mortar church, and all that comes with it. While I talked about the waters of Mary’s womb and the land flowing with milk and honey, I also knew how to soften challenge with a smile, how to defer in speech and posture, how to survive and (yes) prosper in the patriarchy. No doubt my children learned from both the explicit and implicit messages, and too the duplicity.

I survived. Quite well, in fact. Until I dared to believe that I deserved something different, something more, something apart from the patriarchy. As I stepped away and claimed my truth, an absolutely predictable unraveling began. Likewise predictable was my surprise.

Because we always think that somehow we are special. That the crushing weight of the machine will give us a pass. That our years of allegiance and toil have given us particular grace. That we are, whatever definition we give to the “we” and the “us”, included and privileged in a system of patronage. That we are, well, individuals.

Particularly toxic in the American mythology is the promise of individualism. This promise is the hook to our ego that will make a poor white coal miner in Kentucky vote for Donald Trump, believing that rage focused on the other will provide blessing to us, that we (whomever the we are) are somehow different, special, deserving. This hook is what makes a starry eyed young mom believe that she can raise a son in the cesspool of patriarchy and not have him grow up and look down; that her teaching, her love, her sacrifice (and no) will transcend. This misguided notion of singular superiority, this ego, is what drives us to drink and shop and sex and watch our minds into oblivion because truly the ego can never be sated.

Salvation isn’t in the ego. It will never have enough.

And our surprise is indicative only of our misplaced trust.

Wherein lies our hope? Perhaps the unlikely promise accredited to Jesus that even the blade of grass has value; not in isolation, not as an individual, but as an integral part of the whole. So too the feather on the bird, the grain of sand, the ant, and me. Neither greater nor lesser, but one amongst many. At one with, atonement. Radically inclusive not as we bring them to our table, but as we step away from the table and sit amongst creation feeling the ground beneath our feet and rediscovering ourselves in the eyes of our neighbor.

http://www.catherineshafer.com/capes.html

Sometimes when I am in a sacred circle of queer folk, I catch a glimpse of who I was before I was a white woman in America.

And we, together, are very good.

 

 

2 Replies to “Before I was a white woman…”

  1. Do you know the story of the Bridge of Arta? The artisans and apprentices worked all day, every day, to build it, and every night it would fall down. Finally a voice came to the master builder, that he must bury his beloved wife in the foundation, or the bridge would never stand. He tried to avoid the command, but finally obeyed, and the bridge stood. The modern saying is that women hold up half the sky, and there are men who support this belief; but in earlier days, and still in our own, the actuality is that women are buried in the foundations of patriarchy. It’s a tricky place from which to hold up the sky.

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