Yesterday was one of the most depressing days of my year (so far), and that's saying a lot. There have been so many ups and downs for me emotionally during this election season. I told my co-workers yesterday--who commiserated with me as only those whom you've worked on elections with can do--that I felt as if I'd been beaten up, robbed, with no legal recourse. I never expected Kerry and the Dems to give up so damned easily. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and neither should all of you.
Although I felt lethargic at work all day, I knew something was brewing inside me--a sense of hopelessness and pain, yes, but also a deep anger that had been frustrated for too long. And mixed with the anger, an even deeper sadness, knowing that this country now has a population that is 40% evangelical Christian and that that vocal constituency has flexed its powerful muscles once more, and delivered a killer blow to the liberal and progressive elements of our society. Feeling that it doesn't matter what we do on the left, no matter how hard or long we work to build our base, grow our movement, figure out strategy and move everyone forward, these Church-going folk (and I don't say that in a sarcastic way at all, just a descriptive way) can blast us out of the water because, let's face it folks, they are more ruthless and probably more organized than us. And they believe that God is on their side.
I was born and raised in a fairly strict Catholic home. I went to Mass every Sunday, sometimes more during Holy Weeks. I went to Catholic school (including all-girls high school) for 11 years, and at one point in my life I wanted to be a nun. Spirituality and religion have always been an important part of my life, even during the few years that I considered myself an atheist of sorts. I can argue Bible verse or faith with any missionary that dares to knock on my door. Not one to be content with a purely Western (and patriarchal) religious tradition, I've also studied (and practiced aspects of) Santeria and Ifa (religions descended from the West African Yoruba peoples), Buddhism, yoga, Filipino indigeneous creation myths, European witchcraft and mysticism, Native American sacred traditions, the Tao and even a bit of Sufism. I believe that all Gods are one God, and that all faiths are different manifestations of an overarching Divinity that encompasses us all. I also believe that human beings can, have and will continue to twist belief in that Divine Source into something ugly, intolerant, inhumane and downright evil.
I've known a few born-again Christians in my time, and they are all decent, loving people who have an unshakeable faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We have talked about our favorite Bible verses and what we liked about Jesus' teachings. We can sit at the same table and feel as if we are kindred spirits. And we are.
But it is in fundamentalist Chritians' intolerance of other belief systems, in other religions' right to exist and thrive, that I take issue. Partially because I am a secular liberationist, partially because I personally derive so many blessings and insight and power from my non-Christian practices. Last night provides a good case in point.
As I said, I came home sad, frustrated and angry. I picked a fight with H., who was also in no mood to bear the brunt of my anger. To make a long story short, we got into a huge shouting match, hurling hurtful words to each other like the thunder and lightning bolts that had torn the sky earlier in the day. And words weren't the only things thrown (but don't worry, we didn't hurt each other). At the end of our 10-minute fight, our apartment floor was littered with the contents of an overturned box (my bead collection, some art supplies and old Duran Duran collectibles), half a dozen pairs of shoes (all H.'s, of course), and some jackets that I pulled down from the coat rack in the hallway. It looked for a moment as if a small tornado had blown through our home.
H. and I settled down, the anger leaving us and the sadness that was underneath it all pouring out in sobs and apologies. I had let my anger get the best of me, yes, but I also knew that I needed to let it out, that all the politicking and mental masturbation during the day could not adequately express these powerful and deep-seated feelings. But throwing books and clothes onto the floor could, and did. I felt better afterwards, if not a little ashamed for causing such a scene.
In my study of Santeria, I have found a great affinity with the Orisha (force of nature/deity) Oya, who rules the tornado, the lightning bolt, revolutionary (rapid) change. The tornado of emotion that had passed through H. and I and our small apartment was clearly the expression of our Oya energy. I was moved, immediately after our argument, to build an altar to the fiery warrior-Orisha, who is the equal to her mate, the Orisha Chango, in battle. She is known for her volatility and bursts of anger--behaviors I have been known to exhibit myself.
I had been planning to build an altar to Oya for a long time, but kept putting it off because I didn't have time, was too busy, didn't feel like it, yadda yadda. But Oya was clearly more than ready to have her altar made. She demanded it of me. And so I set about, at 9pm on Wednesday night, the day after election day, creating what is now a beautiful altar to Oya next to my bookcase, to honor my revolutionary-warrior spirit, the volatile and powerful force of nature in me and in all of us that demands justice, that demands all that we can give to make this world a better place.
I called H. over to look at my altar after I finished it, and he gazed at the purple silken cloth covered with a medallion of St. Theresa (Oya's Catholic counterpart), a garnet and sterling silver necklace, various river rocks and other objects that reminded me of Oya's energy. He stared at the new altar with a look of wonder on his face, as if to say, 'You made this just now?' It was a moment of healing for both of us, and I feel that having this new sacred space in our home will help us heal whatever hurts remain within us after this crazy election season, and will give us the strength, courage and power we need to get through the next four years, and to make sure that in 2008 we elect a President who will truly serve the people and not just cater to the lowest-common-denominator fears of an ill-informed and increasingly intolerant populace.
In Hope and Struggle,