I'm still processing Saturday’s Prayer March in Support of Standing Rock. One of the places where we held a prayer ceremony was at the foot of the Times Square statue of Fr. Patrick Duffy, an immigrant of Irish descent whose family came to the US by way of Canada fleeing the Great Famine. He was a chaplain of the predominantly Irish-American 69th Regiment, founded by the Young Irelanders, who organized a failed rebellion against English colonial rule in 1848 of which one of my ancestors was a leader. The Young Irelanders who escaped to the US formed the 69th Regiment to train and mobilize the Irish in the US to prepare them to one day rejoin their brethren, casting off British empire once and for all.
Instead, the 69th Regiment became known as “The Fighting Irish” or “The Fighting 69th” for their bravery in battle in many major wars waged by the US across the globe, most recently in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan– where civilian casualties number over one, and perhaps as high as, two million, according to studies that factor in deaths due to the damage done to food, health, natural and economic systems.
So, a people who were refugees and resisters of empire’s violence, and an organization founded to overthrow it, were contorted into its agents. They assimilated into the ways of a nation with capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy baked into its foundation, that has violently broken every treaty made with the people of its First Nation in the insatiable pursuit of land, resources, and wealth.
Today, I mourn the many ways that empire bribes and weaponizes its subjects to turn against one another; to rape, rob, and murder human beings; to betray our own dignity which, if it is dignity, must honor that of others.
Today, I recognize that though we were born into oppressive systems that we did not choose, we make choices that are all our own about who we will be, what we will stand for, and what we will build. My history holds both resistance and destruction. I cannot exile my own bones that bear conflicted legacies– reconciliation and healing could never be so simple. And so my faith practice is a necessity of my existence– an audacious belief that my people, white people, can and must die to the spirit of domination, by choice or by force, so that we may re-member the spirit of struggle and of communion with all life.
I confess I do not know what all that means– the depths of the sacrifice that faith will ask of me, or the vastness of abundance it will unleash. So I walk with the questions, with an openness to receive, with a willingness to act in small and big ways to be reborn to love’s transformative power.
Each day, I make mistakes and I begin again.
In the Prayer March, I carried with me a rock and a vial of seawater from Ireland/Eire to each of the places where we held water and prayer ceremonies. Though our tears are tributaries from particular places, this watershed from our faces is flowing to the same life force– yearnings churning from that strange spirit source. May I, may we, wake up to our collective dignity, that sacred homeland from where we all come.