Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For Whom the Bells Tolls

"A Field Beyond"
- desert wilderness -

I have come to the point where I pretty much “tune out” the hate-filled, spiteful, and malicious rhetoric Donald Trump seems to dish out on a daily basis nowadays. The only thing about it that still continues to trouble me is the fact that so many people are apparently “buying into” and even supporting what he has to say.

In a news conference yesterday Trump kicked out a prominent and respected Latino reporter, telling the man to “go back to Univision,” which was a euphemistic way of telling the man to “go back to Mexico.” In a very real sense this has become the core message embraced by a rather significant portion of the populations of this country: “Immigrants, foreigners, people who don’t look like or think like the people in my own little patch of the world don’t belong here - go back to where you came from!” 

As I watched that disgusting display of exclusion played out at the news conference yesterday, I looked out my front door and it struck me that, while I happen to be an American citizen living in California, the place where I live was actually Mexico just a few generations ago before becoming part of the “good old U.S.A.” 

In the 19th century some “wheeling and dealing” went on, and with the stroke of a pen the land in which I am standing was suddenly no longer Mexico--it was now America.

This reminds me of all the borders of those supposedly well-established countries in the Middle East that we hear so much abut today. Before the First World War, the whole region was the “Ottoman Empire,” a vast borderless territory populated by bands of tribal people. After a war was fought, deals were made, treaties were signed, and new borders were established, carving up the area into artificially constructed countries, given names like Syria, Iraq, Iran.

In a very real sense all borders are artificial and all nations are little more than “human constructs.”

Today I have been thinking about John Donne’s classic 17 century English Poem:

No man is an island entire of itself.
 Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.

We all live on a very small and ever shrinking planet and we “are” a web of interconnection. We all belong to one another, and there are no strangers from foreign lands. What happens to any one of us happens to us all.

When I saw Donald Trump and his supporters eject that reporter at the news conference yesterday, telling the man to “go back to Mexico,” I had a visceral feeling that I was the one being thrown out of that room, I was the one being told that I didn’t belong and that I should go back to where I came from. In fact I am that reporter who was thrown out of that room, so are you and so are we all. Ask not for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for thee.

This morning I looked out into the wide open “wilderness field” just across from where I live and I thought about another line of poetry once written by the great Sufi mystic, Rumi.

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

I pray that we may all be able to meet one another out on that field beyond ideas, words and artificial borders - that place where a phrase like “each other” just doesn’t make any sense.  

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