Share |

Ending Privilege or Using It

Positively Speaking

Noon... I promised the editor by noon today. Eleven fifty nine. I’m going to be late. Nepal, Baltimore and a death in the family and I postpone what was going to be printed three days ago and try to figure out how to put very very strong emotions on paper.

In the last three weeks I have experienced a complete turnaround in the direction of my life. I, white boomer woman that I am, have just endured, am still enduring, the most incredible hate campaign any person ever concocted. A hoax and some lies, a whole lot of lies, because other people did bad behavior and didn’t have the ca hones (is that how testes are spelled in the vernacular- in Hawaiian) to bear the responsibility for their own pain and choices and inadequacies and truly thought they could use me as a whipping post, a scapegoat and throw me under the bus. Not so fast. I stood up, turned and walked around them, to the great beyond of bliss and happiness.

You know that scene in the movie Speed where the guy ( or was it the gal) is under the bus trying to dismember some detonator..or somethingerother. I don’t have time to look it up for accuracy’s sake. Well...that was me, and two of my kids were in the bus. But, by God’s Grace, I was able to hang on and cut the wires. So trust me, it was celebration time this last weekend. Next time you read this column you will read about the joy of being a strong woman.

Then the call came. My cousin had found true love a couple months back for the second time. Her first partner had died suddenly about a year and a half ago, and then her dog died, but then she found love again. Only Saturday night, that love, too, died suddenly of a heart attack and eventually had to be removed from life support.   In between news accounts of the world’s events, celebrating took a side seat. 
Newspaper junky that I am, I’ve been looking at The Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus paper for the University of Pennsylvania. Let’s see...front page...

There’s a court hearing that may void state marijuana laws, and area McDonald’s had some health violations, non state cars may face old parking fines, residents are objecting to some zoning decisions around a proposed parking lot, there’s a money gap...

Inside news...the editorial is on whether SAT scores are relevant and the big news is a professor from Yale who is doing a lecture for the Afro-American Studies on ‘The Immorality of Political Officials: a Crisis for Black Youth”. Oh, and the University Hospital is encouraging students to take advantage of their Treatment Center for Chronic Smokers. Lastly, someone created a special school for young black kids who have been so traumatized they don’t speak, literally do not make sound out of their mouths.

Baltimore burning with yet another debate about what and why after yet another death that has divided, Nepal in ruins with thousands dead because of economic privileges denied them before the quake like strong buildings and first responders, loss and grief and controversy.
I forgot to tell you...that news from the Pennsylvanian? That paper was dated 6 February 1974!! 1974!! 1974!! Has anything changed for the better in forty years?!

I am heartsick. For forty years I have been trying to explain to people that if someone is feeling privileged inside they are feeling weak and inadequate and worthless and THAT is what leads to overconsumption of their portion of the planet. THAT is what makes them appear arrogant and self righteous. THAT is what makes them do dependency instead of love. THAT is what makes them put others down and classify and gatekeep and shore up their own piece of turf.

Let me tell you a story. When I was much younger and newly ordained, I got invited to a gathering of clergymen. They would go on retreat every year and their big thrill was to go into town and go this bar. That was their grown up idea of a good time. So, my first year at the retreat, I got invited to go with. It was like being with junior high boys. One of them says to me as opening conversation, “Ya know what my favorite scene in Porky’s was? When he ( put his male appendage....) I stopped him and said gently with a squinty eye and distorted mouth....”thaaaaat would be over the line of appropriate.”  Pretty much all night long these guys might as well have had signs hanging around their necks that said “Hi! You are a woman and I only think of you in one way for one purpose”. Privilege. Yuck.

Now here’s the kicker. When I get back to the camp where we were staying there were two other clergywomen who came up to me in a huff and declared ‘Last year they invited US!!”. I wanted to say to them “Oh honey...if you want to go to the Red Robin and pick up guys in purple tank tops with little to no brains and only one destination on their map, have at it. But THAT...THAT that I just experienced was neither a compliment nor a pleasure.” Privilege.

Another story. Couple who have had very few problems in life and think it’s because they have done everything right. They set themselves as the moral guardians for a community. Holding court they never ever think that maybe, sometimes, bad things are a bit random and can happen to anyone. Then the husband gets terribly ill. Suddenly being privileged takes on a different meaning and there they are looking flawed and struggling and fearful just like the rest of the world. Privilege.

There isn’t a person in this small community that isn’t experiencing privilege. The question is, what will we do with it? Will you use it to better your own situation, garner more pleasures, plump up your assets or make yourself feel less inadequate, less lonely? Or will you use it to go deeper into your own presence and bring more authenticity to the world? Do something that isn’t giving away the sleeves of your vest?

Real suffering happens in this world. People torch things because they feel powerless against privileged people who lord it over others. If they don’t have someone in their life, several someones who will hold them when they can’t hold themselves, they’re going to light a match to the place, they’re going to throw some bricks, they’re going to commit suicide, they’re going to drink or drug themselves into oblivion. If you hurt inside and you don’t use your words, you will act it out. Privilege.

What are you doing with your privilege?  Do you need to end it, get more real, become more authentic, or are you going to use it for the good of those around you?