Dear Sor Juana,
The sound of ideologies clashing continues to be a hail of bullets resulting in more radicalisation and creation of martyrs. This week the martyrs from one set of ideas are cartoonists, satirists, writers and from another, violent extremists – each to their own kind of weapons – one pens, the other, Kalashnikovs.
The everyday little wars we have where no blood is split, where egos might be bruised or voices raised are transparent. We can see into each other’s eyes. There is something that happens when we know a person’s name, who they are and where they come from. The pursuit of these truths comes with immediacy when crimes are perpetrated, we want to know who would do such things.
With the mass media of our time Sor Juana, being a bystander is not really an option, the news is all around us and nearly all of us have the capacity to document with words and pictures on multiple platforms. Severed heads are tweeted to a sporting audience just as easily as a meme about cats (I know you were a cat lady so you might well have had a giggle about some of those).
The age of fear is every age. I began my life in the shadow of the fear of nuclear annihilation and that fear cloud still hangs over civilisation. Martin Luther King gave a sermon once, as did hundreds before and after him, searching for an antidote to the fear of integration and said only love was the remedy. He had a four step plan: Face our fears; be courageous; master perfect love and be filled with faith. This kind of love hurts, takes prisoners and may well end badly. King prescribed people getting to know one another too and invoked the scriptures of his faith:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love ” I John 4.18
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind ” II Timothy 1 7
My home-grown experience of terrorism began because of some words I had written in a church newspaper. My words against racism inspired a right wing Christian group from my own denomination to track me down to my street, throw bricks through my windows and decorate it with graffiti hated filled slogans. In the wake of this week’s terrorism in Paris, as with all the times terrorism soaks into my world, I remember those moments. The first victim of this week’s massacre was a Muslim.
Thoughts can bring terror, as you discovered Sor Juana. Your thoughts, words and actions inspired some and terrorised others – just as feminism has done for centuries. I think dualism is the enemy and diversity and capacity to embrace a range of views essential for love and hope to prosper. Ways for all the voices to be heard is a practice and the thirst to hear more of the voices, is one quenched by respect. It is not easy to hold the pen still when outrage roars and fear stock rises and possibly even harder for those who hold the gun. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
My friend Gill Hicks is setting out to climb bridges. This is her response to terrorism, her plan to face her fears, her way to be courageous, her journey to master love and her way to be filled with faith in humanity. She is in conversation with terrorism every day, losing both her legs in the London bombings ten years ago. She is training hard every day – it is a practice and a discipline to climb a bridge. She is saying Be the Bridge. I am another Pollyanna. (For those who don’t know the story of Pollyanna, after being a champion of finding the glad in every story, she fell off the top of her aunt’s roof and lost the use of her legs. The local townsfolk rallied around to remind her of her insatiable optimism cheering them all up in their dark moment. Pollyanna was changed forever.)
Je Suis Pollyanna