Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, check it can never become a tree. The cycle of life should not only celebrate birth, store but also death as a part of the progression, transformation, and change that life necessitates. The Christian faith has been in the midst of celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ over the past several weeks, and the Jewish faith observing the solemn occasion called the Passover. The secular world refers to this sacred time as Easter, a counter anecdote to the biblical recantation of the Persecution, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. It calls upon the magical Easter Bunny who brings lots of candy, marshmallow bunnies, and colored eggs to little boys and girls. Why, I truly do not know? But it remains a universal American cultural phenomenon as a response to, or in spite of, the religious roots of the holiday celebrations in both Judaism and Christianity.
Recently, Oprah Winfrey generated some criticism when she stated plainly that before the mean-spirited obstructionist Congressional inability to cooperate with the Obama Administration could change (due to the underpinnings of racial bias), “some people would actually have to die.” This of course created a firestorm, particularly among the right-wing conservative media hawks. But was she really saying anything that was controversial? No. Death is a part of the transformative process of birthing new life. The loud voices of the old guard must diminish in order for new voices to be heard. True transformative change must embrace the idea of death and dying as a part of the process of innovation, renewal, and transformation. To move forward, we must let go of what has always been and embrace what can be. That is the most difficult part, the letting go. It is a metaphoric death. In dealing with death, there is always a grieving process that has many phases including the stages of grief. Denial-Anger-Bargaining or Lamenting-Depression and Acceptance, all are a part of grieving the loss of “the way things were”, and each has its own time and place. Dysfunction becomes evident when one spends an inordinate amount of time in one phase, rendering growth and transformative change virtually impossible.
Some people do not want to change! They want to go back to some foregone era when things were so much more comfortable for them. The “way things are” makes them feel like they are losing control, position, or power over his or her own destiny. Does this sound like any people, place, or thing with which you are familiar? Since President Obama was elected in 2008, there has been an explosion in hate groups and anti-government rhetoric. Demographically, the country has changed and yet there are people who are still grieving over that irrefutable truth. They are in denial and holding our country hostage by blocking progressive policies that embrace CHANGE and inclusivity. There is a grey cloud over them, and according to them “nothing will work” and even when it DOES, they DENY it has happened. Life, Death, and Transformation are a part of the natural cycle of life, and without it we will not move forward. I feel for those who cannot, and will not, embrace the CHANGE that will inevitably continue to happen…. perhaps Oprah was right. Some may just have to die in order for CHANGE to truly come to pass.
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: What constitutes a HATE crime?