Thursday, March 10, 2011

Truth-telling: First Step to Becoming Neighbors

Mr Roger's Neighborhood
"The Rotary Four Way Test is the primary tool I have used when serving as a neutral mediator; it gives hope to those who have been marginalized and it gives boundaries to those who currently have the louder voice and power.  To find the Truth we must first acknowledge the dignity in each other and invite all to share their story, even if this process is uncomfortable and offensive.  It takes courage and unhurried time to discover the actions that will lead society to fairness, to a mutually beneficial future and to restored relationships.  Then we can truly be neighbors."  Rotarian SHS
               Test #1:  Is it the TRUTH?
"Truth Telling" is an important and honorable step toward healing of individuals which enables people and Peoples to become more whole and well.  Likewise, it is a necessary step if broken relationships have any hope for mending or if new strong, healthy relationships are to be built.  Truth Telling is not only talking about events that occurred in the past  -  it is also a discussion about the present (like the meetings this week in Phoenix) and the future.  It's about bringing this discussion fully into the public forum and allowing our children seven generations from now to be the jury.

 This runs contrary to the idea that "those people need to speak their mind and get over the past."  (First, labels of "those people" rarely ends well!) Rather Truth Telling begins with acknowledging the suffering of others in the past AND examines the implications today.  I recognize that I have directly benefited from the suffering and subjugation of other people who were also made in the image of God.  That's hard for me to stomach -- but it's true. But it doesn't end there.  My responsibility isn't dictated by what my ancestors did or didn't do; it's about what I have the power to change.  Truth Telling goes a step further to set the table for the next three portions of the Four Way Test (Looking for Fairness, for Mutually beneficial actions and for ways to build Good Will). 

For example, Truth Telling acknowledges the harsh realities that First Nations people have faced and still face.  It begins with the initial stages of acknowledging unofficial policies that led to genocidal results.  It also includes acknowledging official government policies of ethnic cleansing such as re-location (reservations); boarding schools; forced sterilization; the illegalization of religion, language and culture; denial to sacred lands/sites; theft of land, resources, sacred objects; dishonorable treatment of ancestors (burial sites); false incarceration.  It ends with society's attitude that ranges from racism and hatred to complete apathy and indifference. 

Truth Telling is a necessary step before society can answer the question posed by Dr. Waziyatawin  "What Does Justice Look Like?"   Truth telling includes a systematic, strategic process that first gives voice to those who have been marginalized or ignored.  Truth-telling leads to action words/verbs after the rest of the Four Way Test has been applied.

I'm not a historian.  I'm simply a private citizen who took unhurried time to listen and to read.  The history of the United States is not all rosy and happy.  The conflict comes because I am deeply patriotic and feel extremely blessed to be a US. Citizen. Where can these two thoughts coexist?   At first blush, it is easy for Americans to point at genocide in other countries and to take a moral high ground.  Until we as proud Americans are willing to really hear each others' story, we are never going to be whole or well individually, or collectively.   

We ALL need the process of Truth Telling. 
I will be a better person because of the process.  Those who have suffered also need the process.  Our leaders will be better leaders because of the process. 

We may live on the same planet and even in proximity to each other, but until we take the time to listen to each others' stories, we can not truly be good neighbors.  I believe that we won't become the best versions of ourselves until we recognize that we are all connected and that we are all created to be neighbors.  

At the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, those listening responded to the question: "Now which of these seemed to be a good neighbor?"

They answered: "The one who showed mercy and compassion."
Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."