Tearing down the walls
A wonderful man passed away several months ago. He was my publisher for the newspapers I write for, and he was a friend to me. I miss his spirit here among us.
He actually lived the next street over from me, and he died of a heart attack on the floor of his home. I've often thought that if the walls and buildings between him and I had not been in the way, I would have been able to see him lying there. And I would have went to him, and gotten help, and he may have been here today.
I say this not because I feel guilt, I did not build the walls, and I cannot see through them. It's just that if you think about it, he really only died a few hundred yards from me.
In fact, he was surrounded by people, in their homes, in their yards - people cooking, praying, playing, laughing, crying, dancing, sleeping - and all the time he was right beside us, passing.
We could not see him, through the walls.
I think that this is how many things work. We cannot see through these walls into the truth of the world. If we did, we might just find the dead and dying are not very far from us at all.
Without the walls, we would see. If we saw, we might be moved to find remedy.
These walls, although mainly invisible, are often as real to the mind as the brick and mortar that shielded my friend from my sight - ego, racism, apathy, nationalism, religion, party lines, economic disparity, anger, mistrust, hopelessness, ect.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that all of the above mentioned things (like religion) are a hundred percent bad. It's only when any of them keep us from seeing - truly seeing, and we let them prevent us from providing aid, or working toward a combined future for our own good, that they are erroneous.
A logical mind may ask: Who builds these walls?
Is it the media which chooses for us what is important? Those that commonly decide that the death of one should be seen more often and with more reverence, than the daily death of millions?
Is it the politicians? Those that determine what rule is to be followed, what penalty is to be enforced, what is to be the trade-off, and what is the currency of the barter?
Is it industry? Society? Science? Self?
You may say, it is all of the above. I don't know.
To me the real questions are: How do we tear down the walls? And how do we arm ourselves to be ready to provide comfort and aid to what we find behind them?
Further, how do we live awake enough that in a world of walls, we can easily recognize them, internally and externally?
Take for instance the issues in the Gulf since the spill. I have long maintained that my true calling to this matter has been one of testifying as to what I have seen. Often I feel I am merely reporting back to those behind me who hold the sledgehammers.
Dreadful things have come within sight over the last nearly 2 years. Children with white knuckles and fearful eyes, holding inhalers, rubbing open sores. Adults with head in hands, begging God himself for relief. Tides that roll in, taking the land with it as it returns to the sea.
Empty nets, empty eyes, hearts filled with anger, burning earth and water, bloated animal flesh on a crowded beach, alarmed mothers, tired organizers, loud voices, soft voices, no voices - all of these things and more, behind the walls.
But perhaps the worst thing that I have witnessed is people living in the same country, sometimes even a few miles away, from those suffering, and yet have little to no knowledge of the events unfolding very near where they sleep.
The walls are too high, you see?
Sadly, these are ancient and repeating architectures. The same walls existed in Nazi Germany, in Rwanda, in India, in the time of Jesus; in fact, prior to any revolution or social justice movement, constantly the walls are being built and removed.
But the good news is that in those darkest of times, there are good people, with tools in hand, chipping away. And I have seen that in this instance too.
Perhaps that is the true mission, universally given, to tear down the walls. It surely is a commissioning repeated across the earth, and throughout time.
I am not so focused as to say that what is happening in the Gulf is more or less an injustice as any across the world. Martin Luther King Jr, approached that fallacy, when he spoke of injustice anywhere being a threat of justice everywhere.
It's just that I beg to go farther and say that a unified demand and allocation of justice anywhere, is a bridge built to justice everywhere.
A great place to start, or continue, is this coming Wednesday, February 29, at 1250 Poydras Avenue, in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the March and Rally for a Fair and Just Outcome of the BP Trial. Please see more info here: http://www.facebook.com/events/271951906207368/.
Also you can check out the following videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t1VLiNCfh8&feature=youtu.be and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dReBg791xJI&feature=youtu.be. Please help us to share this info across your networks.
If you can come, I would love to see you. But, of course, I understand if you cannot. Just know that through our love we carry you with us always, and in that way you will never be too far from us.
I do ask that wherever you are in the world, you look around and try to recognize the walls in your life and community. And that when you can, consider picking up your hammer. I promise to try and do the same.
Let's all hope that together we will be able to build more bridges, than walls, in the days and years to come.
Cherri Foytlin is an oil worker's wife, mother of six, Louisiana resident and journalist whose family has been deeply impacted by the BP Oil Disaster and consequential moratorium on deep water drilling. She co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for www.BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster. She has been a constant voice, speaking out to the Obama Administration's Gulf Oil Spill Commission, and in countless forms of media. Cherri will continue her fight for the industries, people, culture and wildlife of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast "until we are made whole again."