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Eugene Weekly : Notes from the Riverside : 4.15.10




Deception’s Toll

Finding liberation under oppression

By mark harris

It’s Easter season, and amidst the fantasy of bunnies, (the remnants of the workings of a fertility goddess), I’m thinking of a black man killed by white cops. Not Aaron Campbell, and not Lloyd Stephenson, but Ieshua himself. His homeland was under occupation by a foreign power; so technically they were not cops but soldiers, nonetheless his crimes included providing health care for free (yea verily, even Roman centurion’s families), feeding people for free, keeping people from stoning others, suggesting fidelity even in one’s heart and thoughts. He never led any armies, never killed anybody, maybe upset a few people more concerned about money than people, exhorted people to love thy neighbors like themselves, mostly because your neighbor is yourself, as well as your enemy being part of yourself. So he’s a socialist, a pacifist, a mystic and an activist teaching people to be free under oppression while not oppressing others. 

No wonder they killed him. Even though Romans didn’t believe in white supremacy at the time, they could definitely recognize a good idea to co-opt in order to build empires. So I’m sure the Romans would want you to turn the other cheek as they are conquering you, or as these latter-day Romans wish you to submit quietly and bow down to whatever oppression they desire for you —  whether addiction, genocide, slavery, domestic violence or sexual abuse. In some lights Passover is a liberation celebration to, among other things, remember those who have not been liberated in the present — and invoking freedom for them.

In fact, a reading of the Aramaic phrase “love your enemies” translated into English mentions nothing about turning the other cheek against your oppressors, but rather understanding the heart and mind of your oppressors, so they can’t oppress you.

Ieshua taught that you suffer because you love what deceives you, so it would be wise to forgive those who know not what they do because they are deceived. Forgiving means letting go of attachment to your anger but not forgetting how you were hurt, yea even as you hurt yourself, because you don’t know yourself enough to love yourself. If you love yourself enough, you will not allow the Romans to crucify your spirit; you will tend to your inner garden, pulling up doubting weeds, make sure you have good, nourishing and healing fruits and herbs — and a shade tree to shield you from the glare of oppression.

I was pitying myself so much recently that I was thinking I’d make a bad slave, in comparison to my slave ancestors, given how lazy I am, in comparison to them, slavery being such excellent aerobic exercise. But Alice Walker talked to a group of black yoga teachers I know about how the mind loves meditation as much as the body loves exercise. My grandmothers remind me that I am working in different fields, on an academic plantation, teaching many how to, as they did in their time, “Steal Away to Jesus” and be free.

Mark Harris is an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at LCC.