An Open Letter from Deena Metzger to Tony Hayward and President Obama:If We Pursue Remorse and Collaboration in Lieu of Blame, We Might Still Heal the Gulf
Let us stand before the bleeding Gulf, bear witness to the great wound we have all imposed, speak grief, mourn, take responsibility, atone, make amends, commit ourselves to restoration, to entirely different lives, all of us, now. We have no choice but finally to act consistently on behalf of all life, all our relations, the future generations of all beings, all the future little ones. Once in a conversation, Reb Zalman Schacter, visionary Father of Jewish Renewal, advised that much would be accomplished if every government negotiation began with mutual grief speaking. Several small events in my own life precede this essay: 1. Last week I unwittingly hurt a beloved student/colleague and publicly apologized.2. I have received apologies and witnessed amends from several people who have completed a twelve-step program. 3. Recently, my husband and I were in a volcanic disagreement. Later, I apologized for being emotionally volatile and he admitted his provocations. We apologized, sought means to avoid future conflagrations, repairing the damage through honesty, laughter, cooperation and genuine love.4. We, and our Daré community, will be hosting an ex-rebel general and an ex-refugee who were once enemies. Now they are co-directors of the everyday gandhis peace-building team in Liberia. 5. Our community has been hosting Fire Circles to Heal War where all war-traumatized peoples, ex-combatants and civilians alike, can speak of the great wound of war, expressing their agony, grief and sorrow. But there can't be healing until amends are made. What are right amends, we ask? Giving more than we can, offering restoration, in kind, to the harm we have done, opening our hearts wide and wider, living with the heartbreak, not denying, not turning away.
* * *The Gulf. A hemorrhage. A heart vein or an artery punctured. The birds, animals, sea creatures dying. Human and non-human lives, communities, cultures devastated. The photos of the oil on water, dark red rising to the surface of the blue. The on-going blood spilling in the Gulf. Our hands are covered in blood, in oil. How can we honorably prepare ourselves so that, by our own prior moral reflections, we call BP, the US Government, Tony Hayward, Dick Cheney, President Obama, and all those directly responsible, to privately and publicly soul search, express unfathomable heartbreak, face the horror of what has been done and the real threat to all sea life? Admitting culpability, those in power will be more able to assume full responsibility and begin the daily, on-going, real and impossible task of making amends and finding ways of restoration. Who is to judge the adequacy of all of our responses? Let the oil soaked pelican, the turtle seeking sanctuary to lay her eggs, the dying dolphin judge.
* * * This is a call for all of us, as we are all indirectly or directly responsible parties, to bear true witness and admit that we have entirely betrayed the future - the pelican, turtle, shrimp, fish, dolphin, whale, the fisher people and citizens of the Gulf, the entire human community, the children, life itself. We are, for the first time in global history, in a situation of absolute common jeopardy. We cannot set up barriers between one sea and another. There is only one ocean. The oil is gushing forth in plumes that are real, large and deep. Far more than the coasts and shores are affected. The entire pelagic ecosystem is imperiled and, consequently, we are facing questions of planetary survival. Carrying this consciousness ourselves, we will be able to listen and hear those in power admit that no one knows how to save or restore the oceans. Yes, let's admit it: No one knows what to do and no president or world leader can acknowledge it without our willingness to hear it. Recognizing this together allows anyone and everyone who might know something to sit down together to meet this crisis. Together. In Council. We have gone far beyond ourselves and acted against our knowledge and wisdom. In Greek philosophy, hubris had tragic consequences for the individual; today it is a global tragedy: perhaps an entire planet mortally wounded. The counterparts of hubris are bluster and blame. Bluster is a lie: "It is not as bad as we think. We will recover. Our lives will continue as usual. The future is safe." Bluster is designed to save face and prevent panic. But it does not change the reality we are all secretly facing.Blame is the antithesis of rigorous analysis, discernment, scrutiny and self-scrutiny. Blame is self-righteous. Blaming distracts us from our own culpability, from the gravity of the crisis and so blaming has become an intoxication, an aphrodisiac, an international feeding frenzy. The catastrophe must be someone's fault. Surely it is BP's fault. Yes. And the government's fault. Yes. But it is also the fault of everyone in between. Yes. Everyone's fault. Yes. My fault. And yours. We allowed a reckless life style to be imposed on us. It was offered to us and we grabbed it. We live by consuming whatever is made available, all our resources. We don't know how to change our individual dependencies, let alone national dependencies. We are still preoccupied with money. Blood money. And Tony Hayward of BP wants his life back.But, alas, finding fault doesn't stop the hemorrhage. We are at a stalemate, feuding and fighting There is no evidence that the spill will cease and no evidence that it can be cleaned up. There is not enough money in the universe to restore the Gulf, to compensate our losses. The sea, the one I know as the EarthSeaMother, and her creatures are dying. I have always wondered how I would live and act, if I thought my life and all life might be threatened. But... if we all face and speak our grief, examine our individual relationships to oil and the innumerable petroleum products and toxins embedded in our daily lives, admit that we have all participated in creating this disaster ... then - chastened - we may be able to imagine and hold the enormous pain, shame and fear that BP officials, petroleum companies, investors, government leaders might not be able to admit, even to themselves: they have created a disaster that could mean the beginning of the end of all life on the planet. Admitting this, we become partners on a planet united in its grief and common jeopardy and authorized to refuse any actions that might cause further harm to the natural world and to pursue all possible safe solutions, should there be any. Such unprecedented alliances, inspired to offer everything, withholding nothing, and relieved of concerns with profit, damage control, liability, power, nationalism, might find ways to save it all for the common good.Who knows but such community grief speaking and unprecedented alliances might, in the realms where miracles happen, find us sufficiently trustworthy to rouse the EarthSeaMother and awaken her own healing potential alongside our united efforts. Let us enter into national and international Days of Atonement, into moral accounting, while giving everything, so that future beings may still be written into the Book of Life. *** Deena Metzger's recent books include Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing and Grief into Vision: A Council, from Hand to Hand Press and Ruin and Beauty, New and Selected Poems; Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn; The Other Hand, from Red Hen Press. www.deenametzger.com. firstname.lastname@example.org