I've been traveling for the past month, and you learn a lot about yourself when you travel; but you also see the world in new ways when you're away from home and out of your normal routines. One of the oldest adages in the world but I found it true: don't travel to see the world but to see yourself--and your home--more clearly.
Well, my home is the United States; and it's hard to claim that at times when traveling internationally. But nevertheless, it is home. And here at home, even in my home state of New Mexico, there is trouble. I haven't really known what to say about it that wouldn't be cliche, so I haven't made the effort to comment. But in my travels, I began to see it as a broader problem; a more internalized state that we've all adopted, unconsciously, simply through ignorance or through adaptation to family environments, but whatever it's origins, it has become intrinsic. So intrinsic that we don't see it--the police state we're living in.
But the increase in police violence, and yes, murder, against citizens is escalating at such an alarming rate; the acts of brutality by the police are in such stark relief to our understanding of their role, well, we've all been forced to look. When I was young I traveled with my family to the Middle East and Africa. And I remember being shocked at the semi-automatic weapons manned by military in these countries. We just didn't see that kind of thing here in the States. But in many ways it's because we don't have to. The police state has been internalized. We have the greatest incarceration rate in the world per capita--which is criminal in itself as a statistic--but the fact that we don't even talk about it? Well, it's an outrage. I grew up in the 80s, when all the rhetoric was about freedom and individual liberty. In some ways it was the birth of the Libertarian Party, meanwhile, the middle class was being robbed of its share of the common wealth by outrageous changes in the tax code and a widespread theft of the social network via the corporate elite. These realities were just seeds in the 80s; and now we are living in the consequences of the barren fruit of those seeds where less than .01% of the population controls more than 60% of the wealth around the world and here in the United States.
And we've all been programmed not to ask the right questions, we've all been programmed not to question, Where's our share? Why is trickle up more valid than trickle down? From the time we're children, we've been told to sit down and shut up. We've been over managed, manipulated and shouted down by our parents, our school districts, our colleges and even our work places. And we call this a freedom loving country?
I've spent the past month watching people from various walks of life try to control their children, their communities, their mentally ill, their weak and their strong. I've watched perfectly natural curiosity in children be shouted down and shamed in public places. I've watched beautiful animals be unnecessarily badgered by strangers. And meanwhile, I've seen truly desperate people be simply unseen--even by me.
When we raise our children in environments where any creative expression is shut down, where any natural joy is stifled, where any play is shamed and silenced, how can we not expect to create police officers who then go out and abuse their power. How can we not expect a government that oversteps its boundaries? How can we not expect a nation that no longer seems to have a moral center when deciding things as basic as food and shelter and living wages, much less universal health care, child care, and tuition and housing support, which are the things that families need to even feel human in today's world, much less successful.
We used to be a nation whose rhetoric anyway upheld itself as the standard bearer of freedom. Well, that freedom-loving nation is now a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world, where children are expelled from high school for expressing themselves, where women's wombs are litigated beyond any notion of privacy, and where frankly it is simply unsafe to be a black man, or a brown man. Where fear-mongering has turned its ugly head upon itself and we are nation cannibalizing ourselves, destroying our future as surely as we destroyed our past.
I don't have any answers. Other than I decided a long time ago that the only freedom I could fight for was my own. My own liberation. That's why I practice, that's why I meditate, that's why I read from the Guru, that's why I serve when and where I can. All to find some small corner within myself that is truly free. Free from shame. Free from fear. Free from anger. Free to simply be. Be to be.
Close your eyes with me for a moment and take a deep breath. Remember what is feels like--jiwan mukt. We all come from that place of freedom and we all return to it eventually--some of us quickly, some of us slowly, and some of us liberating others along our way. May I be a vehicle for my own liberation and may I have the blessing of being a hand, lifting someone else to their own liberation as well. That is my prayer. May we all be liberated from our own police state. And me we all know freedom--one breath of fresh free air--before it's all over.
Greetings from the Land of Enchantment
That I may see . . . day four
That I may see . . . Day Two
So that I may see . . . Day One
A Very Subtle Year
Friday Night Rant
Becoming a Teacher
The Internalized Police State
He said . . . she heard
The Shakti Mantra
Down on Me with Iyaanrhee-ai Shabad
Story Time: The Guru Gayatri
The Mother's Shabads
The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone
Track One--Durga Mantra--from The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone