Kindness as Resistance

A showery sort of day, much like yesterday, cool for June. The forecast for next week is for much above average temperatures and there is a good chance that by next weekend we will add to our rapidly growing list of record high temperatures. For now, the world is cast in a multitude of greens, lush and luscious.

I’ve been thinking about how my father’s family knew a lot about resistance, and about treating others with respect. I remember my aunts and uncles as generous, almost to a fault, and remarkably kind, even as they struggled with racism and the threat of violence. I don’t know how they did it although I guess their “Christian values” helped, as did their penchant for taking the “long view”.

These days I find myself wondering what they made of the fact that the very people who would have stolen their land espoused “Christian values”, as did those who donned sheets and masks and burned crosses on Native people’s front yards. For my elders, keeping the faith and practicing kindness were active strategies of resistance to the policies and behaviors of those who sought to erase my family from the Indiana landscape. That racism is very much alive in our country, and yet I still find it shocking that Mike Pence, who used his time as Indiana governor preach and practice hatred, is now ensconced in the White House.

I inherited many of my elders’ values along with their determination to resist policies of hatred. Yet I’m not so sure I have the tenacity and courage required to be kind to those who desire to do so much harm to others. It was not that my elders forgave folks or forget their actions. Rather, they insisted on being kind to everyone even as they fought fiercely against the poison being taught and spread by folks they perceived as broken and dangerous.

Back in the day my elders just wanted to work, farm, subsistence hunt and fish, and raise kids in peace and safety, and they extended those same rights to others. I often think they were ahead of their time as their ideas about land and rights applied pretty much to all beings, as long as those beings stayed out of the garden and away from the chickens. Theirs was definitely a live and let live concept of life, even as they firmly believed government must care for those who are vulnerable, a category that for them including the young, the elderly, and the land.

I’m appreciative of my elders’ courage and teachings, and hope I, too, can find ways to be kind to those whose beliefs and actions I find myself called on to resist. Now that I’m an elder, I can see the wisdom of their insistence on taking the long view, for only in that widest of perspectives is practicing kindness, even to one’s enemies, possible. Yet I also know all this to be enormously difficult work that comes with no guaranties things will get better.



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