America’s destiny is to become truly multicultural.
How can I say this in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders? How could this be amidst the chaos of our climate, the failure of our leaders and the breakdown of our institutions? I say this because multiculturalism, or diversity, is alive. Life does not behave according to fiat or survive in isolation; it grows in opportunity. It survives through cooperation.
White supremacy, in contrast, is a culture of death. It is a culture of death because it is a culture of separateness; of isolation and control. It is a culture that only understands enoughness as power over because it shuts itself off from the abundance of power together with. Life is participatory and with participation comes surrender, communication and the willingness to be changed by experience. Any culture that is not willing to engage life on it’s terms is a culture of death, pulling those connected to it into stagnation and decline. Cultures of death cannot ultimately survive because the nature of life is to grow and flourish. The rest of life just wants to live, and the desire to live is powerful. Like plants through the pavement life finds a way.
Could it be that the colonists came to the Americas to be changed? Leaving behind their mother cultures they shaped the newly stolen landscape in their own image using the labor of unwilling souls. They carried with them the legacy of a very old dream, a dream that had shaped their continent of origin so thoroughly that it had shaped their minds and normalized the twisting their hearts. It was the dream of power without responsibility; of bounty at other’s expense; of gain without the burden of consequence. Somewhere, the dream of power without responsibility had to run it’s course. The American Experiment had begun.
Power without responsibility is the plight of a child, dependent on a mothers milk and care for its survival. The colonial powers sought freedom from adulthood on someone else’s back, and possessed the technology that allowed them to exact that prize. This was possible in a world with lots for the taking. And in heavens name did the taking occur. Taking of land, taking of children, taking of women and men, taking of tusks, taking of pelts, taking of timber and ore and pebbles and mountains. An incredible bounty unprecedented in scale and impossible to recreate. Such a large bounty, in fact, that the wave of affluence it produced carried the colonists so high they forgot about the taking entirely. It was already in motion. Hidden beneath the surf, however, have always been the rocks of consequence.
Also hidden by the magnitude of this wave was another dream; a quieter dream nascent in the hearts of those who came. It was a dream of life, of the freedom to follow one’s own path, to walk one’s own destiny. It was a dream captivated by the beauty of the natural world, in awe of purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. It was a dream of government of the people, for the people, by the people, born from a longing for accountability and justice served; for true responsibility. Perhaps the dying breaths of the millions of indigenous Americans slaughtered to make way for European conquest planted a seed in the settler’s hearts. Loosened from the hegemony of their past only to carry it forward in their choices, at once inspired by the unspeakable beauty of an unconquered landscape and complicit in it’s commodification, how were we changed?
Today, we find ourselves in the age of consequence. The balance of the past has become due. Those of us who perpetuate the patterns of the colonial mind are being asked to grow up. We are being asked to reckon with what the true nature of freedom actually means. We are out of continents to feed from, no one is going to change our diapers. The seductive power of freedom from responsibility is cresting, and the rocks of consequence have laid themselves bare. No longer can we unwillingly ignore the immense cost of how we have arrived on this shore. It is time to face our destiny.
The transition will be uncomfortable. It is going to require that we get out and swim. There are those of us still clinging to the old visions. Still rigid on the deck, skating around on pieces of iceberg, unwilling to part with the fruits of conquest. But what we must realize is that the shore we now find ourselves on is where our true dream of freedom will flourish. In the wake of the death of the culture of supremacy will grow a future brighter than any number of its treasured artifacts can measure. It is the blossoming of that seed planted in our hearts by the sacrifice of so many lives that holds our longing for justice and accountability, for the resiliency born of healthy bodies and healthy soil. For the joy of the commons and for the wisdom of true elders. Our hearts long for us to become the adults we came here to be, and now it is finally time. The rest of life is waiting.