I wrote this on the day of President Obama's inauguration, and am saddened by how timely it feels:
Commenting on the oath of office this morning, a friend wrote that "having 'mental reservations' would actually be a sign of wisdom." I don't claim wisdom, at least not on behalf of the part of me that uses words, but I want to speak my own mental reservations:
I want to believe in Barack Obama. The significance and power of a nation whose wealth was built through the enslavement of people kidnapped from Africa electing the son of a Kenyan to be President is not lost on me. Nor is the reality that the margin of difference between the policies promised by the new administration and those enacted by the last is a margin that represents life or death for millions. And who could not be moved by Rev. Joseph Lowery speaking the benediction that evokes a god older and more loving and more real than the God of bondage evoked by Rev. Rick Warren.
But there are truths that burn so hot that the veils that once covered them can never be repaired. And they keep me from celebrating wholeheartedly.
Barack Obama intends to keep troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely. And he plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
Those wars and the dozen proxy wars our taxes will continue to fund are waged to ensure the continuation of the mindless growth demanded by the system we live under -- the growth that Edward Abbey called "the ideology of a cancer cell," the growth that consumes forests and mountains and deserts and lives and whole nations and whole species.
I don't doubt that President Obama wants to reduce the damage done, to render the system a little bit less brutal. And again, any diminishing of brutality means less suffering.
But at the same time, the commitment to continuing that brutality means an acceptance of more "collateral damage." President Obama said "we will not apologize for our way of life or waver in its defense." But only when we do finally apologize for the way in which we have been living at the world's expense (including apologizing to our selves for the ways in which we have cut ourselves off from the living Earth) can we "put aside childish things" and learn to live in a just and sustainable way.
In this country we tend to ignore the fact that systems have a reality and mind of their own, and that they always operate to ensure their own survival. In pledging himself to the idea of America, President Obama surrendered a part of his own will to the systems of control that bind themselves together under that name.
But a witch bows to no one. And I will not offer my own allegiance to that system. I offer my love and support to a man named Barack Obama wrestling to hold onto his humanity in a situation where great powers conspire to rob him of it. But I have no loyalty to President Barack Obama as he undertakes the work of attempting to guide
and steer violent systems of control.
My own allegiances are to myself, the truth, my gods, and the living universe.
Like Thomas the Rhymer I would kiss the lips of the Queen of Faerie and be transformed, given the gift of a tongue that will not lie that makes it impossible to ever again be at home in a world woven from the enchantment of falsehoods repeated so often that we no longer hear the din or imagine the possibilty that the imagination can stray outside the bounds set by that wall of noise. The tongue that speaks the truth cuts a hole in that wall, revealing a road that leads into the sweet, fierce, loving wildness of the heart.
I am setting out along that path.