What’s (radical) love got to do with it? Everything.
March 23, 2009 § 8 Comments
1.i am a mother. and when i first read jess’s piece that was what came to me: my motherhood. and how central my love with my daughter is in my organizing.
and i have followed the ensuing conversation fascinated. wow. there are all these permutations and experiences i hadnt perceived. so thanks to everyone for that. i will be thinking about this conversation for a long time.
when i say ‘radical love’ what i mean is ‘radical caretaking’. caretaking for me is concrete action. taking care of myself. taking care of others. on multiple levels physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. it is providing space where others can take care of themselves. where they feel empowered to ask for what they need. it is not because i like them (often i dont, hell, there are enough times in the day i dont like my daughter, but i take care of her…does that make sense?) but because they are another human being and they deserve to be whole too.
when i think of radical love. i think of being a birth assistant for working poor african immigrant teenage moms. and loving them. even though i may not particularly like them. not the kind of folks i want hang out with on a saturday aft. but loving them tenderly through an incredibly vulnerable moment of their lives. and that creates a bond between us. and yes they yelled not nice things to me in their final moments of labor. and they resent me because i am a stranger, not their boyfriend, not their mom. but because we have been really vulnerable with each other…the quality of the relationship is…more human(?)
and i think about working in the villages in palestine. and how there are these settlers coming to attack us internationals. and the palestinians are taking care of us. and we are taking care of them. and frankly i dont like everyone in that village either. but we are still putting our lives on the line for each other. and frankly maybe we are all a bit ‘idealistic’ but that barely begins to explain why we would do that for another. and we are not bff. we barely know each other. but we are living. and taking care of each other. because if we dont we are all screwed. does that make sense?
and it was in this village that i really learned what i now call: radical love. because this village centered relationship-building and maintaining. we sat in meetings for incredibly long times because everyone has to feel heard andconsidered and everyone has to be on board with the next decision.
i guess i learned that you take care of folks first then they trust you.
i dont do organizing anymore that doesnt center relationships/caretaking. i just dont think its worth it. any organizing that doesnt have a place for my relationship with my daughter is bullshit.
cause the villages in palestine would love for me to do the work with my daughter by my side. or one of the families would take her if i needed to go in the field w/o her.
and if your organizing doesnt center care-taking then i wonder what the fuck are you organizing for?
as lex asks:
what’s (radical) love got to do with it?
2. and i wanted to say something as well about the difference between public love and private love.
i cant remember when i first read about this concept, but it is like:
‘public love’ is the love you have a people, for your people.
‘private love’ is the love you have for a person. it is more intimate.
and i feel like alot of this discussion is about what is the relationship between public love and private love. which should be centered when?
and i am thinking about how when i joined this progressive organization the founder told me that he had made a choice not to have children in order to dedicate himself to activism. and how much having children would detract from him giving everything to the cause. how he saw this private love (motherhood) as detracting from this public love (activism).
and i am thinking about how when we were at the zapatista women’s encuentro, the zap women would stop and talk to my partner (white male) because he was holding a baby. and that was amazing because there were all these international boys feeling ‘left out’ because they were at an encuentro but the zap women weren’t talking to them.
to me that was a moment of radical love. a moment when public love and private love support and uphold each other. and to me that is the point of all my work. not so much that a white boy talks to zap women.
but that love is centered in the work.
3. and i want to say that love is the point. this love i have is for my people, but when i say ‘my people’ i mean (at my best) all sentient beings. not just black folks. or us nationals. i remember when i was in my last days preparing to go to palestine and my family is interrogating me as to why i am going half way around the world to go ‘help’ folks when ‘my’ people right here in ‘america’ need ‘help’. and i was like: they are my people too. because they are human beings. and my mom looks at me and shakes her head. and i keep going: i cant make lines like those people are black so they are ‘my’ people but those people are palestinian so they arent ‘my’ people.
i guess what i am saying is the personal is political. and since the personal is political. my love is both personal and political. i chose to become a mother not just for personal reasons but also cause i saw motherhood as a revolutionary act in the global sphere. i saw motherhood as a relationship not only with my daughter but also with mothers and daughters and grandmothers throughout the world. that this relationship was not about isolating myself into yuppie conceptions of mama life. but it was about willing to be more invested in this world. in justice. in revolutionary change. for my child’s sake. for mothers’ sake. for love.