“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!”
— Edward Bulwer-Lytton, From His 1839 Play “Richelieu; Or The Conspiracy”
The oft-cited phrase “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword” may have been written in 1839, but the idea that words – however conveyed – have more potential to bring about change than violence does is much more ancient. As of late I have been clinging to this concept, even as I am not totally convinced of its truth. But as I feel limited to and by my language, by my ability to write and speak as a form of action and activism, my heart beckons me to believe that even in the face of life-taking, soul-shattering Oppression…my words can make a difference.
And so I must write. Because it is all I can do at the moment. And I’ve got to do something, you know?!?
I am a Sufferer and an Empath. These conditions have been and will continue to be my greatest Strengths and my greatest Weaknesses. I feel and care deeply for and about other beings, even as I have become progressively more reclusive as I age. I spend much of my time in solitude as a result of what often feels like an affliction – I soak up and carry the suffering of others like a sponge. To the point where it can make me physically ill. Ergo, over time I have withdrawn from being a “Center of the Action” type of person and have become an “All By Myself” kind of person. True Confession: I hate this about myself. It makes me feel weak. It makes me feel useless. And it makes me feel lonely.
All that said, I am still here. And while I am here, I can still speak. I can still write. And that is more than many across the globe are empowered or “free” to do.
So I just have a few things to express here – much of this has been said before, much more eloquently, but as I have been off of Facebook (my primary mode of written activism and expression) for the month of Ramadan, I feel compelled to say something. So here goes:
I Am Tired.
— I am tired of Nationalism and Jingoism. In all of its forms. I am absolutely down for folks being proud of where they came from, of their Homelands, of their ‘hoods, of their cultures, and of their People. But Nation States are generally not about The People. Politicians are generally not about The People. And I find it abhorrent that we can critique and denounce some governments as Utterly Corrupt, but others have been deemed “Untouchable.” I can critique the Nigerian government for their response – or lack thereof – to the kidnapping of its nation’s girls, among other horrific issues. I can critique the Syrian government for engaging in atrocities against its own People. But if I critique the Israeli government for its assault on Palestine – and I have read EXTENSIVELY about the history of Jewish persecution and the creation of the state of Israel – I am labeled “Anti-Semitic.” If I critique the United States government for wanton Imperialism, shameless Neo-Colonialism, and the pointed Oppression of very specific demographic groups, I am labeled “Anti-American.” This is entirely problematic. And it clarifies who the Power Holders are on the planet. Well, it does for ME anyway.
— I am tired of passenger planes “disappearing” or being shot out of the air, followed by powerful nations claiming that they simply have no idea why or how this has happened. Lies. Lies and Mendacity!
— I am tired of teaching about misogyny to people who prefer to believe that men are the TRUE victims of oppression on the planet. I am tired of teaching about racism and white supremacy to people who prefer to believe that white people are the TRUE victims of oppression in this country. I am tired of teaching about Christian supremacy to people who prefer to believe that Christians are TRULY the most persecuted religious group on the planet. I am tired of teaching about Classism to people who prefer to believe that they are being “robbed” by the poor whilst the extremely wealthy are snatching the roof from right over their heads. I am tired of teaching about heterosexism to people who would prefer to ignore the vast numbers of homicides and suicides that occur in Queer communities, and instead pretend like a few states allowing marriage equality means that these communities are actually safe. In short, I am tired of teaching factual information to folks who prefer to hold on to their illusions and delusions.
— I am tired of Hopelessness. I am tired of Powerlessness. I am tired of Poverty. I am tired of Materialism. I am tired of Shallow Celebrity Culture. I am tired of Egocentrism.
— I am tired of Police Brutality. I am tired of Military “Interventions.” I am tired of Jingoistic Flag-Waving on holidays that celebrate War-Mongering. I am tired of nations and people pretending that killing other people makes them more “safe” or “free.” I am tired of the slogan “Freedom Isn’t Free” in a country where a large portion of the population remains enslaved on various levels.
— I am tired of Deferred Dreams; of Dashed Hopes; of Misplaced Priorities; of Broken Hearts; of Dead Children; of Disaffected Adults; of Obliterated Communities; of Genocide.
I Am Tired.
But I Am Also Strengthened.
— I am strengthened by those who speak out and actively work against Oppression in its myriad forms.
— I am strengthened by the kindness of friends and strangers.
— I am strengthened by those who don’t just look for the good in this world, but who DO the good in this world.
— I am strengthened by the one or two students in each of my courses who “Get It.”
— I am strengthened by the fact that I have found allies amongst folks who do not share my gender, my race, my culture, my faith, my sexual orientation, my gender identity, my social class, my experiences, or some of my perspectives. I am strengthened by those who are patient. I am strengthened by those who listen. I am strengthened by those who love me anyway.
— I am strengthened by the resilience of children; by the fierceness of freedom fighters; by the bravery of artists; by the tenacity of teachers; by the steadfastness of parents; by the small victories of the common person.
— And when I feel that All Hope Is Lost – and I often do – I am strengthened by the presence, words, big-heartedness, and love of those in my Village. The ones who don’t shun me when I am too sad to speak. They know who they are.
I’m not sure that anything I’ve written here makes sense, and honestly I don’t like engaging in Stream of Consciousness writing because it makes me feel slightly out of control. But the truth is that I am never in control, even when I delude myself into believing that I am. Perhaps none of us are. All I know is that the Suffering I experience over things large and small – there is a reason for it. Insha’Allah, I will someday discern what that reason is. And perhaps someday soon I can embrace my Suffering – and that of others – and transform it into something Beautiful. Perhaps.
Until then, The Struggle Continues.
But it is not in vain. I must believe that it is not in vain.
I will end with the words of the Incomparable Langston Hughes. Because Langston had a way of piercing the soul and touching the heart whilst saying things that mattered:
Are not available
To the dreamers,
To the singers.
In some lands
And cold steel
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song