I doubt there has ever been a time in history when more people in more varied walks of life have been labeled and told they are unwanted or don't belong.
I know many people are hurting deeply right now for reasons of life and death, separation from family and elimination of basic freedom. It can feel like other groups who have merely been mocked, degraded or threatened are not in the same boat and that they do not understand the gravity of the situation.
We don't all understand every part. We don't all know what it is to stand in one another's shoes. But we do have more in common than we have misunderstandings.
Your experiences are real and you are not alone.
And yet it has become unfashionable to have a group identity. We love individuals and we don't like being pigeon-holed. We may be part of one culture, ethnicity, faith, group or class but we are rarely "typical" of that label and we simultaneously belong to others.
Our media culture idolizes the person who refuses to associate with a group. We have also become educated enough to know that each identity is unique.
I love non-conformity as much as the next person, but too much exceptionalism has its costs. Now when so many of us are truly threatened, we spend precious energy arguing among ourselves and debating who has a greater right to outrage. We disagree about trivial things or the specific solutions to our problems and thus we don't address immediate threats together.
At least that's how it has gone down in the past.
Right now there are many groups forming and fluctuating. Membership in both the KKK and the ACLU have skyrocketed. Lines are being drawn and often they are based on an ideology or a particular identity. I personally support the ACLU and other organizations like Greenpeace, the NAACP and Doctors Without Borders. But the point isn't exactly which groups I want to support (as long as it isn't a racist, terrorist or otherwise harmful group)..
We also need broader places where all those who have common interests can belong.
It isn't so much the strength in numbers that I want. We need a sense of common cause and solidarity. True belonging comes not from the accident of your birth, culture or label, but rather from your choices, values and convictions.
It is time to set down the most basic tenants of what we belong to, the lines which we won't cross and which enclose all of us. This must be at once broad enough for all and clear enough to mean something.
Here are some ideas of where we belong::
- We are open to all races, religions, ability types, sexual orientations, nationalities, ages and appearances.
- We recognize the right of people to express their identity and culture, to have a voice in public and a connection to their land and people.
- We know that power entails responsibility.
- We speak up when we or others are prejudicially attacked or stereotyped.
- We are concerned about ecological issues and we respect the earth which we depend on for our lives.
- We take whatever action is feasible and effective in our personal situations to protect the earth, water, air, other species and one another.
- We recognize that facts exist and can be documented, while context can consist of many facts.
- We believe that people have a right to true information and that money and incorporation should not accord greater rights to any individual or group.
- We insist that the resources of the earth are held in common and must not be exploited for the profit of a few.
- We believe each person has the right to freedom that does not harm or restrict others.
- We strive to be kind and welcoming toward newcomers and to work out differences respectfully.
There will necessarily be some who haven't explored all of these issues in-depth. But we should be able to agree on the basic values of inclusion and protection of that which sustains our lives.
Still there will be some who choose to reject these values. I have been part of many ecological or earth-based groups and some of them do not hold the same values of openness toward people of different paths and backgrounds that I demand. On the other hand, there are also many groups that are concerned with social justice but don't take the immediate crisis of climate change seriously.
:Environmental concern and the love of diversity are deal breakers for me--two things I simply cannot do without.
Don't get me wrong. Groups can specialize. Not every parenting group must be focused on environmental issues as well as parenting. But I can't feel truly loyal to a group that openly expresses their disregard for environmental concerns, anymore than I can feel welcome in a group with borderline racist statements, no matter how good they are on something else. These are life and death issues that can't be compromised.
I have no problem with the fact that Facebook groups connected to Black Lives Matter are unlikely to be regularly posting about climate change. Many groups accept these values but focus on one particular need.
I don't demand that environmental groups spend time and attention on anti-racism stuff. However, I could not very well put my loyalty in a multicultural group that irrelevantly professed disdain for tree-huggers and climate scientists, anymore than I can feel comfortable in an earth-centered group that occasionally throws up closet racist posts.
This isn't to say that I will only join groups that agree with all of my opinions. Far from it.
I have an abundance of opinions. I still love Star Trek after all these years, my favorite pizza involves lots of really hot peppers and seared garlic, I think J. K. Rowling is a damned good writer but the seventh book had some issues, And I think dish rags should be changed about every three days.
Those are opinions. And I don't expect members of a group I'm in to agree with them. And that extends to more relevant opinions too. I have my views on economic systems, health care and electoral processes. But these are things we can work out. What level of gun regulation we should have is debatable. I can and have had informative discussions with people who disagree on things like that.
Therein lies the distinction perhaps. I don't think there is room to casually debate whether or not we'll believe in science and facts or whether we will accept all people of every religion and color. Those who agree on these things need a place to belong where we can learn from the rest of our differences without being constantly bogged down by an inability to agree on ground rules.
That is why I have founded a group called Belonging on the Earth. It is small and not diverse enough as of yet. I hope you will join and find it a welcoming community. Currently the group is starting on Facebook. You can join it here. I am the administrator for now and I can ensure that it is a safe and respectful place. This is a group for those who agree on fundamental values but may not agree on many other things. As the group grows other administrators will be added who can help to foster the openness of the group.
Not everyone is into Facebook and eventually there will be other ways to belong to this community. If you can't join the Facebook group, I encourage yo to join my hearth-side email circles below and keep in touch through the comments on this webpage.
You belong on the earth. Your experiences are real and you are not alone.