Oh, Peace Is So Complex

Yesterday I was with friends at Monticello. It was a lovely visit made all the more delightful by the fact that a dear friend and gifted poet Chet’la Sebree is doing an internship there. She’s currently writing on Sally Hemmings. Oh, I look forward to what develops. You should as well. She has one poem out, recently published in an anthology. Mine is currently in the car, and I am not, so I’ll add that link later. If you want to know more about her, check out her website here.

Monticello is gorgeous (although it always looked bigger on the nickle!) and filled with the most amazing innovations. He was ingenious and figured out so many things small and large. The house really is a marvel. He was brilliant and his writings and thinkings inspire us today. There is so much more to learn about him. The group I was with was there because he was a friend of Joseph Priestley and they are mounting a play on the relationships between Priestley, Jefferson, and Adams.

He was also, as were many men of his day, a slaveholder. He wrote against it, yet used it on his plantation and took enslaved people with him wherever he traveled. He had a four-decades long relationship with an enslaved woman and had children with her. Those children were released at his death but served during his lifetime. Jefferson died broke, so I suppose he can’t be blamed for not settling money on his children of color. It’s a messy history — a story of his day.

Aside from Chet’la, my purpose at Monticello was to keep learning about slavery. It’s a different story than the one I learned at Whitney Plantation, but it was slavery, nonetheless. It kills the souls of those caught in its maw. I keep reading, I keep learning. Ancient or new, it’s an ugly, ugly story, a scar on the face of humanity. I’m currently reading Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone. It is both terrifying and inspiring. I just saw a headline that Texas is the #2 state in human trafficking. Oh, my heart, oh, my heart.

We need to raise our voices. We need to mourn the lost and brutalized; we need to go to work on behalf of the living. It is not to be condoned. It kills our souls as well as those of the enslaved.

Peace is not a fuzzy, far off goal to be tossed around lightly, it must be struggled for. Peace must be waged.


Demanding Peace in the Face of Slavery

Like many Americans, I try to bury the horrors of slavery in the past. I don’t do well with novels or movies on the topic; I didn’t read enough history in my youth or my adulthood.

But Life has its own way of insisting that we pay attention.

I was invited to have our church hold a lecture on Human trafficking and was appalled at what I learned. I’ve done some work promoting these — although the more I see and read, the more I understand, I’m not doing anywhere near enough.

Then I saw a vid on the Whitney Plantation, the only Slavery museum in the US and made an internal commitment to see it, should I ever get to New Orleans, but what were the chances? Well, rather good it seems, since all of a sudden I was going to visit my niece in NOLA and she wanted to see it too.

I’ve written before, it was stunning.

Now I’m reading David Batstone’s book, Not for Sale. You should read it too. The subtitle is The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It. You read his book, the horrendous stories of people enslaved, and the uplifting, encouraging stories of people engaged in making a difference, and your eyes and heart will open.

At the same time I’ve read Enrique’s Journey which details a young man’s determination to make it North to the US and his mother, who journeyed to the States so that she might make a living for her children.

I’m not in a position to say what I will do next or what anyone should do next. I am in a position to say Something Must Be Done — and generally in those pronouncements the only somebodies available are me and thee.

There is no Peace in the face of the exploitation and degradation of other human beings. If we want Peace, we must find Peace for them. It seems, after having become a reluctant activist, I must also become an abolitionist. Now there’s a word we thought had gone the way of the Edsel. It seems that is not the case.


Learning More for Deeper Peace

In the Christian Bible, John 8:32, it is said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

John was talking about Jesus, but it was a quote that kept circling in my brain yesterday, as we walked around Whitney Plantation as it explained and illustrated what slavery looked like for enslaved people, for the owners of enslaved people and for the sugar cane industry.

I may never eat sugar again.

It may be the appropriate response.

There are probably a lot of other appropriate responses, but I don’t know what they are yet.

I can say to you that this was a life-changing experience and that you’ll hear more.

I can say that what we learn in places such as this can lead us to a deeper Peace if we’re willing to make Peace in face of the realities. I hope we’re all willing to learn…


Making Peace with the Past

Today, I’m visiting my niece in New Orleans. She’s coming to pick me up and we’re driving off to visit in the Slave Museum. It’s going to be one of those days where you come face to face with exactly how horribly we can treat another human being and how extraordinarily people can respond.

It’s one of those visits i feel compelled to make. When I thought about making this trip, it was one of the first things i thought about. The video introducing it is so powerful, when i saw it months ago, I thought, I must see that.

I think from time to time we need not to look away from what is true. This is one of those things/one of those places.

And so I go, and try to make sense of humanity’s willingness to make the most egregious compromises about other people’s very existence…  to acknowledge our complicity in eviI go to remember the courageous people who endured. Peace be with us all.