Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pine Ridge, 2013: Reflections of power, privilege, peace and service

“Welcome Home.” 

This was how Dwayne, one of our hosts in Wanblee, greeted me.  This was my fourth trip to Wanblee and it is becoming a spiritual home of sorts.  It is becoming an important annual ritual that takes me out of my routine, and brings old and new acquaintances together in a deep and spiritual way.

This year, we had a great few weeks helping Earth Tipi work towards a model of sustainability on the Rez, and reconnecting with friends as we helped prepare for the Sundance.   We created a space to practice what we preach, and to work through the physical, emotional and interpersonal challenges in a safe, loving and trusting environment.  Through conversation, action, silence and reflection, we practiced grace, putting the ego aside. We went as way opened. 

One of the openings was a mud volleyball game at the Eagle’s Nest District Pow Wow.  Our $50 entry fee
made way for a filthy four games of fun and laughs.  We ended up winning the $100 pot, and contributed that to the local youth program.  Something else happened that gave pause for reflection and consideration.  While playing, some of the local youth threw mud at us, at times with rocks mixed in.  One of our players got hit in the eye.  We asked the kids to stop.  They didn’t.  We asked some of the adults to intervene.  They did, but the kids returned and continued sporadically. To the credit of the Workcampers - and perhaps to the credit of the pacifist teachings that come from Quakerism - there was no consideration of reacting with violence or in-kind.

Over the next few days, we had some conversations about this experience.  We struggled to overcome our egos (“Why would they do this to me?  I’m a good person, and I’m here to help”), and as we did, we got to deeper conversations. For example:
·         We often find it understandable and excusable for an oppressed and abused community to exact revenge (a la much of what I hear about Palestinian violence against Israelis as “understandable”).  However, when we represent that power, and find ourselves vulnerable, it feels very different.  The fact is, we have benefited from oppression and exploitation.  Our experience this day was a taste of what many Lakota feel every day – especially when they venture off the Rez.  It was a real eye-opener about power and privilege.
·         In talking with Dwayne about this situation, he affirmed that we acted in the right way.  We did not have the leverage to do more – other than leaving the game, but we were having too much fun.  We could have yelled at the kids, but that would have further agitated the divide.  We were already the outsiders.  But Dwayne also said that if he were there, he would have come down hard on the kids and the adults.  As a member of the community, he could. 

We often talk about Quaker Workcamps as opportunities for experiential learning.  I learned more about power and privilege because of this.  And I am affirmed that change comes from within.  We were the outsiders, but because of how we were in this game, perhaps when we return we will be a bit less so.  

1 comment:

Stan Theman said...

Frankly, you sound like a masochist p*ssy. I wouldn't have any respect for you=and I know that the "oppressed" who threw mud at you definitely don't, either.