Let Despairing Be Dispelled

Friends of Our Wilderness Awareness School Community,

I have been thinking deeply and with a heaviness about this for some time, and I want to welcome to conversation anyone who might be silent and feeling the same way, or is interested in strengthening cross-political friendships in this time of grief and disconnect.

As some of you may or may not know, I have come to hold some different views than many of the good people at Wilderness Awareness School. I am a Conservative.

I say this outright because it is precisely the fear of saying it which I must challenge. It is this fear of social marginalization which I carry within myself, but a roar I must run to. We are all humanely prone to move in our small bubbles, not realizing that there is more intellectual diversity among our people than we realize. We are not a truly diverse organization if we welcome diversity that is only skin-deep.

Over the past couple years I have persistently worried that I am not welcome as a Conservative (even a Centrist or a Classical Liberal who is grateful for our Western Civilization) to be open with you whom I have called by beloved community. I come from a very, very Liberal background, and was still largely identifying in this way while I was an Anake of 2012-13. But we question and we grow; we challenge the unchallenged perspectives we are brought up with.

While I still empathize with and support a number of traditionally Liberal views, I also hold Conservative, mainline-Republican views which I worry are becoming increasingly demonized among well-meaning people who also want to protect what is sacred to them. We’re all carrying these sacred things we burn to protect, and I fear this growing divide. How easily we go to war with each other, and we make our neighbor our enemy. I do not carry hatred within me. I carry human anger and grief, like you. I have engaged with Intersectional Social Justice and have come away with the conclusion that it is not healthy or humane. This is my perspective. It is not the only perspective. Other good people do not share my perspective, but neither will I accept being thought of as “hateful” or a “supremacist” for not agreeing with this ideology. Furthermore, I am concerned that this ideology attempts to gather all People of Color and all gender-nonconforming people into a small political box of a perennially suffering identity which silences their independent dissenting voices, too.

We need to not be seeing each other as our enemies. A deep connection with Nature should belong to everyone, not just those we are politically in agreement with, not just the anointed ones. Insofar as issue has been taken with traditionally mainline-conservative approaches to nature, this should mean that welcoming Conservatives is all the more of a pressing need: would they not greatly benefit from what WAS has to teach?

Speaking to this almost entirely left-leaning community, we need to listen to Conservatives among us, because that is a part of this amazingly complex, diverse reality which we as a community are missing. And for the sake of real and serious peace, Conservatives must know that they, too, can safely come to communities like WAS to learn and grow as people without being told that all their views are wrong or hateful. Let them be welcomed to meet others not like them, to find delight and friendship in ancestries and gender identities unknown to them. If you want people to listen, they have to know they will be listened to, also. Let despairing be dispelled.

One of the areas we must examine is how, as a mostly-White group of people, we are rightfully eager to be sensitive to and deeply respectful of the experiences of People of Color, but at the same time we painfully and increasingly hate ourselves with such self-abuse, because we think that “whiteness” itself is some sort of inborn social evil we must spiritually atone for. Believe me, my beef is not and has never been with People of Color: it is with other White People. This grieves me heavily, that such a time as this is upon us. While I do not assert that every person reading this thinks in such a way in their attempt to extend generosity and inclusion to minority ancestries, I do maintain that I have witnessed this self-abusing trend and I am calling it out as unhealthy and lacking kindness and respect towards ourselves. Are we so frightened of some largeness within us? We are unremarkable, just another group of human beings with our own culture and history, our own deep beauty and wretched problems, with all the good and the bad that comes with any human heritage.

There is much more I could say about this, but I will end this invitation here. I have had somewhat more brief and heated conversations with a few of you before, in moments when I was admittedly feeling less gracious and more upset. That is the product of grief, and I know I am not the only one here to have wrestled that demon. Every one of us will fail to live up to our better angels on this darkened path through the Unknown World. I am shaking as I write this, because it’s damn scary to speak up to you all about this, but it must be done. I have had good dreams. I am not masterfully practiced in every moral responsibility I know I carry as one who lives in this liminal space –not unlike other cultural liminal spaces– but which is nonetheless one unseen at Wilderness Awareness School currently. It is unseen among The Left, the ones who made me who I am. That is not an intentional maliciousness on the part of our communities, I hope, but it is a cultural shortcoming which countless communities in our civilization are now dangerously contending with. I can’t be there for all of them, but I can show up for the ones that have mattered to me. I will do my imperfect best to be a good human creature, and I welcome you in your imperfect best to join me and break open what scares us. Please, speak to me. I will speak in response. Let us listen to each other.

In Courage,

Amber

Testing for Stress

 

When I took the test, my Holmes and Rahe stress score was about 300 (pretty high). I didn’t take the student version because I didn’t identify with most of their questions about typical student life, because I don’t live a typical student life of an on-campus dorm kid.

What stood out to me about these tests was how frustratingly limited, how dully mainstream and worker-bee predictable the questions offered were about. They assumed a standard of normalcy that is only real for a certain percent of the population. I’m sure a lot of the situations offered to be officially recognized as stressful certainly do cause a lot of stress in real lives (loss of job, divorce, etc). Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder, with some anger, why the following type of questions were missing:

“Have you suffered the loss of a beloved animal lately (check: on-par with losing a human family member)?”

“We recognize that there are a lot of intimate relationships beside the strictly legally married ones: have you lost a beloved mate? This includes, but is not limited to, formal legal divorce.”

“Is one or both of your parents still living but are basically deteriorated into a state of violent, zombified walking dead strangers thanks to mental illness and poverty and now you’re an orphan?”

“Have you experienced a loss of a beloved community, a severing of ties with a cherished identity/tribe/lifestyle which was a foundational support to your wellbeing?” Why, yes, community actually matters as much if not more than biological family even though Americans are the only people in the world too fucking arrogant and solipsistic to even acknowledge that in their formal psychology.

“Have you been deprived of an important right of passage, the rejection from participation in ancient human life events? Are you suffering an inexplicable feeling of a lack of purpose and recognition of what matters in the world around you? In fact, is your whole society falling a part?”

“Are you suffering flashbacks of abuse and neglect?”

“Are you coping with the impending death of a family member, maybe the only one with whom you have a parental bond?” Grieving ahead of time is natural and a healthy way to cope with loss.

“Have your homeland and native ecology been devastated?”

“Have you experienced a decreased amount of time spent exercising or being in contact with nature or your understanding of the Divine? If so, this might kick your ass.”

Yeah, Christmas was a thing to be stressed about, but not separation from non-nuclear family. I’m not persuaded by much of standard psychology.

 

 

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash