Evidently the Dalai Lama is a mischievous little holy man. So says Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And if anyone knows, it’s probably him. If you really want to know, the man struck me as pretty mischievous himself.
But celebrity tidbits about The 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan aren’t really what Monday night’s event at the University of Portland was all about. Even the supposed theme of “reconciliation” was not the root of the thing. Nope, Monday night Rev. Tutu was talking about something that goes beyond reconciliation, though it certainly needs it in order to thrive. That something, my friends, is community.
Like I said, community can’t thrive without reconciliation, so it’s not like they lied about the night’s topic, but I felt that Tutu was really only interested in reconciliation, because it facilitates community relationships—whether the community is just you and your spouse or you and 6 Billion other human beings.
And by the way—Tutu has some pretty hilarious things to say about marriage. If he wasn’t ridiculously talented at being a clergyman, I’d say he should go on tour as a comedian. He’d bring down the house. I snorted—no lie—multiple times.
Back to community though. Tutu had some extremely poignant and relevant things to say about community building. He spoke about the amazing turn of events in South Africa and Northern Ireland. He mentioned the ongoing healing processes in Rwanda, and Kosovo. He talked about his hopes for Israel and Palestine. But in truth, it was a comment about Canada that has been stuck in my mind all week. When asked about the effect of Obama’s election on world politics and peace efforts, Tutu answered, “Well, you aren’t Canadians anymore, are you?”
No we aren’t. And (no offense to our wonderful neighbors up North) we no longer want to be. Instead of avoiding conversation on our point of origin like the H1N1 Virus (i.e. Swine Flu), we now put it out there like a Cowboys fan on Super Bowl Sunday. We’re rustling our pom-pom and pointing it out to everyone, like, “LOOK WHAT WE DID!!!” We’re proud of ourselves damn it.
It’s been awhile since the majority of Americans have been proud about anything—well at least the same thing, all together, at once. In the 9/11 aftermath, we drove around with signs and bumper stickers on our cars. We wrote songs about our supposed pride and the “American Way” of dealing with people who didn’t like us (though I personally don’t think sticking a boot up anyone’s ass does much at all, thank you very much Toby). It was all rather forced. More than a little contrived. It wasn’t real, because it wasn’t based in confidence—it was based in fear. Kind of like the adage, “if you have to say it, it probably isn’t true.”
I certainly wasn’t proud to be an American at that time (that doesn’t mean I wasn’t proud of the values our nation was built upon–THEY kick ass!). I was unabashedly ashamed that we had bullied our way into getting bombed. Not that it makes the 9/11 bombings right or any less horrible. It actually makes it worse, because innocent people had to pay for the anger our government fostered in the world for the past 40 years.
That was almost 10 years ago. Today we’re actually ARE proud to stand up next to our fellow Americans and proclaim our citizenship—though we’ve still got work to do. There’s a lot of mess to be cleaned up and it won’t get done in anything close to resembling a flash. Taking the first steps together is important and momentous, but supporting each other with understanding and loyalty to the community good is the only way that we are going to have the strength to finish the job. To do that, we’ve got to reconcile our past and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Sorry to pull out the religious language on you—but it’s pretty damn relevant if you ask this little girl. Maybe that Jesus dude had a point about that. Desmond Tutu certainly did.