Stepping Up: Emotional Education
-An Interview by Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief
Mary interviewed Peace X Peace Founder Patricia Smith Melton for this December PeaceTimes to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. This is part 2 of 3.
What has surprised you, through those years, Patricia?
There are different kinds of surprises. There’s the “Surprise, Happy birthday!” kind and then surprises that are slower and perhaps more difficult. On the bright and shiny side, I’m grateful and awestruck at the new voices from women around the world, especially these young women who fearlessly do amazing things in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Congo. That’s pure joy!
The heavier surprise is the force of fundamentalism, which is certainly in US politics, and it’s disheartening. It means the struggle for communication, for a universal caring, will take longer.
Some say, “Well, humans have been fighting each other for thousands of years,” but there’s a germ of hope, of beauty that humans carry. Sometimes it may get muddied for us, distorted, encapsulated in beliefs we were force-fed as children, but even in fundamentalism wherever it is—in some of the madrasas or in those grossly misguided Islamophobic subway posters―most people have an ideal, a light, a flame. It’s just that their facts are wrong so their beliefs make the world one of divisions, light and dark, where we forget that each one of “the other” also holds that same flame; and they’re not necessarily trying to hurt us.
This heavy surprise includes how deep and persistent attitudes of ignorance and bigotry can be, how the people who hold them don’t even realize they have attitudes of bigotry and stereotyping, and they don’t know the joy of reaching across and discovering that men and women who live differently from them have the same hopes and aspirations, the same caring.
What do you like best about where we are now?
What’s exciting and fascinating is that catalyst effect. The very difficulties of the world have made people step forth to do good, knowing there’s no quick and easy solution, knowing the struggle will be long, knowing they’ll have to decide when to keep their mouths shut and when to open their mouths, and learning when, where, and how to reach beyond their beliefs and put a hand out to people they don’t agree with, at least not initially.
Human beings in any great struggle make choices. They can make choices in hope or in hate, in fear or in practical, functional love, acting against heavy odds or choosing safety and shutting themselves off. I see the world and the US in a time of great struggle and division. That very struggle and division mean that people are going beyond their ordinary lives to become extraordinary in the work needed to make life better for everybody, for education, social enlightenment. People answer the call. They acknowledge their assignments to make the world better. They step up. That is simply, astonishingly beautiful. It’s a miracle.
What are you most grateful for?
For having personally survived difficult times, having a beautiful family, having a place where I can express my voice. I have somehow landed in a blessed place, and I’m not quite sure how that happened, but I know it comes with responsibility.
I know that being blessed with great lives can also have an inherent danger. The 1% can tend to think their easy, safe, wealthy life is what they’re due, that they earned it because they’re nicer or a better Christian or whatever, but that’s not true. The 1%―and I speak here mainly of Western cultures―are just damn lucky. From that place of being gifted, not only with material things but also with good health, maybe certain talents―if you do not live that fully, if you do not fulfill that in sharing and ceding opportunity to others, then you’ve failed. If you don’t radiate light and opportunity, and give opportunity back out, no matter how privileged your life is, it becomes dim. Light and love and happiness grow in the giving.
Positive people everywhere are giving opportunity. They seem to be emerging from everywhere. The creative energy of the universe, of nature, always strives toward harmony. That’s where it grows, in creating harmony. When you see that expressed by women it’s a breathtaking thing.
You know that when a woman is training military in the Congo not to rape her sisters she is not thinking “I’m spreading light in the world.” She’s thinking “I can’t stand what’s happening, I have to change this.” But from a distance you can see it’s the light of human love. We are all born with the capacity to hope, to imagine. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to act have a responsibility to act.
Also in the December PeaceTimes:
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