For example, I lived most of the my first forty something years on Earth here in California. Then, I moved to Oregon for ten years. Then, back to California since March of this year. What separates my life from most people is 90% of my life has been spent engaging in political activism of a revolutionary nature. By saying that, it automatically means most people have no idea what my work consists of, even when it is directed at them and they benefit from it. And even people I work closely with, and especially those that I don't, are programmed every day to see someone like me as operating with a little less than sanity as my foundation. What I've discovered is this is the reality of most activist work, especially that of a revolutionary nature. So, consequently, many people over time find the stress of this unbearable. And for anyone who takes time to understand this phenomenon, it shouldn't be hard to see why this work takes such a toll on us.
When I was in Sacramento before, I did quite of bit of work here. I played a leading role in institutionalizing several instruments of resistance like African Liberation Day, the fourth of the lie, the annual N word forum, and many other things designed to build our capacity to heal and fight back against oppression. I helped build alliances and relationships with a number of organizations. I helped develop a number of organizer/activists. Now, anyone who has even a slightest understanding of this work knows that inclusive of doing all of this is the need to work closely with people, building relationships. And, this isn't something that happens overnight. You have to invest in people and I can say proudly that I did that by spending time with people. Visiting with them. Helping them with their family issues. Providing a regular ear and supporting them in spiritual and often physical ways, often in ways that placed myself in great risk. I say this because I did that as a common practice and it is no exaggeration to say I formed those types of relationships with dozens, probably even hundreds, of people over a period of two decades during my previous tour of California. That's two decades of consistent and intense relationship building, hard work, dependability. Now, you would think that after doing all of that, despite the fact I freely acknowledge I'm not the best person at keeping in contact with folks (although I'm trying to improve), people would remember your commitment to them and hold a space for you in their lives?
What I've found in returning to California is for the most part, amazingly, that isn't true. Many people who I thought I had close relationships with before barely speak to me when I see them now. And, I'm talking about people who I helped de-arrest, rescued from domestic violence, provided resources to live on, counseled in moments of extreme desperation. Barely see me to speak to me now. Now, I have to admit that this is a jolt, but I've learned that I have no reason to internalize any of this despite the fact that it feels very much like a personal rejection. I've told myself that all I did was try to be there for folks as a part of the principles I've tried my best to live my life by. I have to remind myself that despite how those folks react to me now, they reached out to me before because they knew I had some commitment to those principles. Plus, I can tell by the way they interact with me that at least some of them are not doing anything designed to intentionally hurt me. If anything, they act as if our previous history never existed. And, I know I never did anything to betray them, so what gives?
I've landed in a place where I believe what happens in this regard often has absolutely nothing to do with me. What's happening is maybe my leaving previously triggered something in those folks? Or, they have had some life experiences that have nothing to do with me. That speak more to their inability to express themselves than anything I've done materially to make them act that way towards me? That makes sense to me because I know this system teaches us to put up fronts, not deal with our real feelings. And as a result, we all do that to some degree. No one wants to place themselves out there. No one wants to risk getting hurt. Since I've always been someone who places myself out there much more than most people, I cannot lie and say these experiences are not painful. They are immensely painful, but I think I've come to understand them in a healthy way.
When I see people now that I knew before I moved to Oregon, I don't automatically greet them with complete enthusiasm as if we will pick up where we left off as I used to do. I wait to gauge where they are with seeing me again and I take it from there. If they act as if we are just meeting for the first time, although I used to watch their children regularly for them free of charge so they wouldn't lose their job, I don't take it personal. I just know what to expect from that person going forward. And, since I know I did what I thought was right, I try to let it go at that.
And another thing I've institutionalized in my behavior is making sure I let people who performed important roles in my life know it. I've done this to several people since returning to California because I don't want them to feel as I've felt. Maybe they wouldn't feel like me. I am extremely sensitive. Its that empath thing, but I am also astute enough to know when something is happening to me. Anyway, I'm glad I've been honest and open with my mentors because that makes me feel whole, despite whatever the other people are throwing at me.
And now that I've established a similar history during my time in Oregon, I'm looking forward to visiting there soon. And, when I do, I know good people there who I will definitely pick up where I left off. And, I know there are people who will act in that strange way towards me that I've described here, but no worries. I am only responsible for how I walk through the world. I can't control how anyone else does the same. I know who I am and what I'm about and I'm learning how to be good with that, despite whatever else is thrown into the mix. I know all of this is true because there are also the many, many people here in Cali who have stopped me on the street and expressed such appreciation for me being back that tears have come to my eyes. I know there is that in Oregon as well and I greatly appreciate it.
I just hope all of this can help anyone else who feels this same way because I know I can't be the only one. Capitalism is expert at dehumanizing us and producing pain. In fact, whatever pain you experience in your life, if you give me three minutes, I can tell you in a completely ill refutable way how capitalism is at the root of your pain. So, know that, and do one other thing. Let's continue to spread the word together because healthy organizers are successful organizers. The role of imperialism is to wear us down and out of the struggle. There will always be plenty happening to contribute to that. So, lets build each other up. Its a long fight ahead of us and we need each and everyone of you in it.