Making Peace with God Starts with Me
After the death of S.T. here in our permanent supportive housing, I was seriously hoping for social justice. Afterall, had we not had a whole summer of raging social justice madness? BLM activists outside marching, holding rallies, screaming at police, and fully expecting the police to disband. The lesson was to “make noise so you will be heard.”
We want justice because someone is mistreated, abused, treated with contempt, and in the age of Covid, it has nothing to do with race. The victim can be anyone targeted by someone else who feels they are vulnerable. Sometimes the bully is obvious—you can see the hate in their eyes, the contempt in their words, the perverseness that characterizes abuse of power.
In America, we are taught that marching and demonstrating is how social justice looks, even when all and said and done, I am reminded of the movie, “Animal Farm,” an adaptation based on the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. Mr. Harkness showed us this movie at least three times in our English class, and if there was at least one memorable scene, it was the ending: The board may change, but it will be just a new set of pigs!
And that is really how justice per identity politics tend to play out in the United States because of the entrenched market and industrial capitalism under which there are only so many available paths up to the middle class and much fewer decent government jobs today. And the worst part, is just like in Animal Farm, the troublemakers can move up to the top at the cost of the decent and most loyal employees.
That happens so much today that it is almost routine. There are people who are hired at the health club who once they are hired, totally believe they are there to just sit. When they open their mouths, it is to discuss capitalism from a personal perspective. If there is a piece of broken equipment and it is reported as injurious, the information is ignored, or a pretense is made to do something about it, but nothing is done.
This kind of lackadaisical attitude has become commonplace and it is a contributing factor in why some businesses have not survived Covid. When they close, of course it is saddening, and we all feel bad for those workers, yet one cannot help wondering if they have any real remorse for how badly they treated some of their customers. Is the solution for changing people’s hearts and minds really going to come through firing them?
That’s the question about which I have struggled over the past month in mourning for my neighbor over her death, which I fully believe was preventable. She was marginally mobile, yet staff required her to move to the second floor. She could barely climb the stairs, yet the staff assigned her several two-week rounds of hauling out the kitchen garbage. She had memory problems, yet the staff reassured us that she was “independent and tough.” They trivialized her safety concerns even after her room had been broken into, and never bothered replacing the door knob. What was infuriorating was she could be their grandma too, afterall, she was black, the staff are black. But presumably, she is poor, elderly, and no one to pay attention too, so the staff took full advantage…
In contrast, her next door neighbor is also elderly but white, and always full of rage at the unfairness from just about all parties here. She has pursued restraining orders, legal paths, orders in writing, and staff meetings to ensure that she receives full decent treatment even though she is also so poor that she once lived in a tent near the White House. The staff are accommodating because they are afraid of her, presumably, but it does nothing to alleviate their bestial attitude towards anyone else here they can take advantage of!
And that is also the sore face of social justice in our society. One party wins a $25 million dollar settlement lawsuit from Monsanto over glyphosate (Roundup) but what about the countless numbers of other colon cancer victims? What about my friend who developed colon cancer from enjoying killing all the dandelion weeds on his farm? What about other people like me who were exposed to alot of that weed killer?
Human justice is blind, for sure. We can’t sit around and wait for justice to come around, for that person to transfer or be let go, for this person to move away, or for those people to change. I have had countless internal discussions over how to communicate with the social worker after ST, because days before her death, I wrangled with her over the need to look after her better. It’s in my notes, but not hers, since she pretends the meeting did not take place, how many times I mentioned ST in our meeting, and each time, being pretty much brushed off. Each concern was met with a counterargument and dismissal as if it were trite. Again, because I am a charity recipient being able to live here, nothing I say has any kind of validity. Any good idea that is worthwhile is freely appropriated with no credit assigned.
Even students have more value than older adults according to the capitalist industrial system because they encourage consumer spending, and are the future of America. Whereas under the simplistic mindset, older adults have no value; their consumer spending is merely habitual; and their needs are subsumed under the market value of the rich and famous. And since all colors in America pretty much abide by this jingoism, all ills must be spent away.
We addressed the social-justice issue for ST in various ways that are legitimate and within my rights, such as talking with the investigative officers, communicating with supervisors, discussing the matter with friends and relatives, and writing it out. Even now there is a dread that this SW had become quite bullish in her self-righteousness by virtue of authority and status over the residents. She knows which of us believe the staff wronged ST, and she is brow-beating those residents. Her one virtue is that she can talk herself silly, and so it is easy to allow her to go on under the belief that we are listening…but she never counsels us without asserting insistently that her opinions matter the most.
And this is why after the social-justice hunting, the discussions, the explorations about the psychology of the dark-triad (narcissism/divisiveness/psychopathy), and religious ruminations, we were still searching for peace. She can lecture us about the stages of grief in a sort of parochial manner, and counter that “She was going to die anyway” but it does not prevent the thought: “She would be alive today, only one year after she moved in, if you hadn’t moved her. You are unfair allowing that white woman to move downstairs after only one meeting. It takes the rest of us 3-4 requests and months of deliberation to change rooms!”
That kind of argument is only met with obstinance, a staunch counter-argument, a blatant denial of the facts, and so on…there are professionals who are black who are like Trump but don’t even know it! And there is no argument wanting to be created so the case must rest. Please, go on with your wonderful job working in the tunnel, nothing to see here!
Okay, none of that is going to work. We can also project our anger onto the Church or charity administration. All kinds of far-flung accusations and lawsuits are lined up, and the internet is a happy hunting grounds for conspiracies—at least some of which are part true. But this again takes us nowhere. Anger, as we recently witnessed, tends to need an outlet to further legitimize itself. It will use anything for fuel and to rationalize the destruction. Arguably, Americans have become experts at internalizing the need for wars abroad…
Of course the religious aspect on all of this also matters. Strangely, nobody here is of a particularly religious cast, even though this home was founded by nuns. I guess by today’s standards they are also trite persons, for the staff would scoff at “vows of poverty” and most likely view them as just a bunch of underqualified worthless disposables also…
Hours of watching podcasts on Buddhism, on meditation, on the beauty of the lotus sutra, on watching benevolence take place in foreign countries through the efforts of Tzu-Chi Buddhist Foundation as shown on Da-Ai TV. But things were still not clicking for me, because of flashbacks—flashbacks on all the other bad things that have happened recently together with events in my life—really depressing when taken together.
I know I needed some faith, and I am sort of interfaith when it comes to religion having grown up Catholic. A Buddhist-Catholic who also practices Falun Dafa meditation. Altogether these practices help heal and calm together with chanting Ami-Tuo-Fo (Amitabba Buddha incantation). Certainly, it helps that the unpeaceful neighbor is now moved downstairs; it is quieter here. But the aspect of an unhappy ghost remains.
I was too angry to visit the Church nearby. We can’t comment on other aspects over there, yet, the need for healing was so strong that we still undertook a small pilgrimage to the National Shrine. And despite a sort of karmic aftertaste, there was still a very good sense of faith validation. You may not be happy with the church, with administration, with politics, but there is still the faith itself. Only by being grounded in faith can there be healing.
It seems trite today to quote from the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Isn’t that poem a bit too loaded with extremes, binary suppositions? I can’t replace sorrow with joy just like that. Nor does peace come with the snap of the fingers. We see how sorrowful life must be for the Plowshares Eight, including priests and nuns protesting for peace, a true cause. Peace and healing is a process, a personal process that no one should violate or interfere with!
So despite the exposure, let me share with you a beautiful discovery from online at OurCatholicPrayers.com. Even if I doubt that Pope Francis is going to be able to do all that much to ameliorate the piteous situation in Iraq, where the people have suffered decades of wartime unrest and the region is fraught symptoms of climate change, maybe its neighbors will relent more in their persecutions, water-hoarding, and sanctions. Pope Francis has little to do with me anyway. My belief is that he is only a nominal head of the Church; only I can help myself get to heaven. What I can change is how much I can broaden my view of Western faith. All is not lost in this world if we can still pray, whichever part of the world.
“Dear Lord, when I’m fighting against darkness and confusion so often these days, strengthen my will in prayer so that i may persevere in good intentions in following You and doing Your will. Help me to develop and nurture the spirit of equanimity, so that I may keep my thoughts and emotions on an even keel, confident that You are there and will see me through whatever choppy waters or even storms that may lie ahead. Amen.”
Its theme involves the ability to stay centered, grounded, amid the distress, the flotsam and jetsam we are surrounded by as we navigate through our complex lives. Shallow people emphasize the rules and regulations in order to scare us into believing that we must do this or that, or else. They want to delude us into magical-thinking, using head-in-the-sand reasoning. Some people delight in intimidating others and seeing them react with fear and anxiety, or other negative reactions, by which they can pull their strings. Others use jeering and mockery as a failsafe to create a sense of shame and humiliation. Still others have such unreasonable rules or mixed messages in dispensing order, that you cannot help breaking them and thereby inducing a sense of guilt. All these are just fleeting emotions which impede you ability to achieve inner peace. This is why Father includes St. Theresa’s bookmark prayer:
“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.”