It seems like media has been making me cry a lot lately. And this, my friends, is good news.
This morning I posted on Facebook several news stories about the middle-of-the-night, media-blacked-out bulldozer-and-police raid on the Occupy Wall Street protest “city” at Zuccotti Park. Included in Sarah Seltzer’s story on AlterNet was this TwitVid video, from #OWS watcher John Knefel. I looked and listened as cops used pepper spray and batons to take down occupiers while other protesters chanted all around, “Peace! Peace! Peace! Peace!” Amidst the screams one hears protesters saying, “Hey, no violence!” and “Take it easy!” to the cops. Then the chanting changes to, “Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!”
Knefel’s video left me in tears–of outrage, pain, horror and compassion. At the same time, paradoxically, it gave me a new surge of hope. I am, literally, on my knees praying that the news of the Zuccotti Park raid will inspire many millions more to wake up and take action–whatever action is right and meaningful and productive for them at this time in their lives–to help us to forge a more just and humane world, one grounded in compassion, love, peace and unity.
This crying jag started, I think, on October 7, when I awakened to a New York Times headline announcing: “Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Three Activist Women.” It had simply never occurred to me that such a thing would happen in my lifetime. I had tears in my eyes as I posted the article on my Facebook page, sharing what to me was the incredible news that Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemenite pro-democracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman were to receive the Nobel prize. I was even more moved by these statements from the (male) head of the prize committee:
“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” said the citation read by Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister who heads the Oslo-based Nobel committee that chooses the winner of the $1.5 million prize.
In a subsequent interview, he described the prize as “a very important signal to women all over the world.”
After that, the tear ducts kept flowing. At the 2011 Bioneers Conference in the Bay Area in mid-October, the final keynote speaker, the distinguished academic-turned-activist Dr. Pam Rajput, presented a fresh political paradigm so radically humane it actually made me sob for joy. Dr. Rajput talked about the First Women’s Parliament of India, an experimental, alternative legislative space she helped organize for the National Alliance of Women in 2009. In a short film Dr. Rajput screened, I saw images I’d never imagined: 543 women leaders from all over India, who had been democratically elected and trained for a year, discussing matters of law for the good of their whole nation. They drew up a budget guided by the principle of Gross National Happiness, an index “based on sustainable development, social justice, conservation of nature and good governance.” In just four days they passed a slew of laws about such issues as child sex trafficking, food security and domestic workers’ rights. Is this really possible in politics? These women had just proved so.
In the days to come my heart just kept cracking open. I cried in anger and disgust when I learned that the U.S. will likely spend another $600 billion or more on nuclear labs and related programs while a school district in Colorado is selling advertising space on kids’ report cards, so desperate are they for funds. I cried in horror when the war criminal General Otto Pérez Molina, who was in charge of a major military base during the 1980s genocidal war against the Mayans in Guatemala, won the presidential election in that country, a place I was privileged to live in 2007 and which still holds a tremendous space in my heart. (Among other charges, Pérez Molina is believed to have run a secret torture center and to have been on the payroll of the CIA.) And I cried in a surge of hopefulness when I read that Ireland had elected, as its new president, the 70-year-old poet and sociology professor Michael D. Higgins, a member of the Labour Party who has campaigned against the war in Iraq and human rights abuses.
In these times of great chaos and an expanding potential for change, it is more important than ever to allow ourselves to feel fully whatever emotions arise. We shouldn’t hold back our tears of sorrow or hopelessness or confusion or inspiration or joy. Tears are particularly potent because I know that when I’m crying, I’m coming from the deepest center of my heart. And from that holy place, I can really create change.
What breaks your heart open? What happens then, and then, and then, when you let yourself rest for a while in that split-open heartspace without distraction, without running away? Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” What does your light reveal when you allow yourself to shed your most holy tears?Occupy Wall Street photograph by david_shankbone is from the website GreenConduct.com and is used under a Creative Commons license.