Surprise! New Year, same systemic issues.

A reflection on my reaction to what's unfolding in the US after yesterday's events at the capitol

I woke up this morning prepared to see the “shock” at what happened yesterday at the capitol, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling angry about so many people feigning ignorance to what seems obvious; our country is built upon the energy of superiority, narcissism and an embodied, outdated definition of ‘survival of the fittest’.

As I perused social media and the comments under news stories I read, my eyes rolled each time I read a comment like, “I can’t believe the police are taking selfies with the insurgents” or “I really didn’t think something like this could happen here.” Comments like this make me want to scream from the rooftops; “have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening to the people pointing it out or those threatening to do this? Where were you when we all watched a violin vigil and BLM protests get shut down with tear gas and rubber bullets?” It’s also making me nauseous as I hear people make inane comments about ‘hope’, ‘unity’ and other new age, hippie sentiments that serve as nothing more than balm for their own inner hurt before they go on with their white, middle class day.

I am watching my internal reactions to what is happening with curiosity and acknowledge my annoyance and eyerolls as a product of my own embodied superiority. (Why can’t they be more like me? Why can’t they see what I see? Why don’t they just listen?) I can recognize the nausea and mental ‘whys’ I am experiencing as a signal that my nervous system has been alerted to potential danger and my fight response is kicking in.

In this moment of recognition I have a multitude of choices: I can spin off into fear; I can lash out with words and claim my superior position at the top of some good, white person hierarchy; I can initiate the white flight sequence and lean into hope to get through the discomfort while politely staying out of the way; OR I can recognize that the signals my body is sending is alerting me to a very real danger we are all collectively facing. I have choices about how I handle that recognition.

We are ALL embedded in a system that is inherently corrupt and abusive, not just a select few. We are metaphorical fish born into a toxic ocean. The power over/power under dynamic is not only abusive, it is traumatic and what we are watching are the effects trauma has on the human nervous system and the resulting inability to think clearly in real time.

Through my own internal work with embodied superiority, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism (call it what you want; they all share the same roots), I’ve learned that my ancestors had to disassociate from their empathy for centuries. My ancestors had to hide their disgust, horror and empathy as they watched their fellow villagers hung or disembowelled in the town square; if they were to call out the horror or wince in vicarious pain, they would face the same fate.

Thousands of years ago, when Rome came to my ancestor’s villages, if we wanted to survive, we fell into line; we did what we were told even if it meant giving our power away. These ancestral experiences created the culture we all live in today, our subconscious beliefs and reactions. No matter how fast we want to rise above or claim our superiority, we are in fact mammals; survival is our most basic and primal need.

As we’ve advanced we have learned that in order to survive and succeed in our culture we had to be willing to climb to the top, to suck up to authority and to turn the other cheek. I’m not making excuses for what is happening, rather accepting it for what it is: people who have been conditioned to believe a certain worldview are white knuckling as that worldview’s limitations are revealed.

This very real aspect of our humanity and the roots of our culture won't magically go away on January 20th. The demon isn’t Trump, it’s the conditioning and culture we all uphold even when we don’t want to. It’s in our blood and our bones, it’s baked into the strands of our DNA and until we are willing to own that, to bring conscious awareness to where it lives inside us individually, we won’t have access to the courage and power it takes to level the playing field and create systemic change.

In 4 weeks, I’m facilitating a two hour long, sliding scale class where we can talk about our humanity, learn the ways our body communicates with us and create space for choice. If you’re interested in learning how to look at your life and experiences through a different lens, you can check it out here.