Writer’s Journey: doing the work

I have been silent for quite a while as I moved through the necessary steps towards full recovery. Sometimes, we have our hands so full with the business of trying to make it from one day to the next that we don’t have much energy to think of much else. I deeply appreciate the kadkadua, the friends and comrades who have sent me encouraging notes even when I had no strength to answer.

What follows are things that bubbled up as I worked on the columns that I want to see published next. Fellow traveler on the journey, this is for you too.

. . . who  know what it is to be afraid to speak because to speak is a matter of life or death.

… who know what it is to hunger or to be anxious about where the next day’s meal will come from.

…who know what it is like to turn over every coin as each coin spent means a balance between what is needful and what is less needful.

…who have not been cushioned by the luxury of wealth, not owning anything more than what your two hands can hold.

…who do not own the privilege of position or class.

…who have not been shielded by the color of your skin or gender or sexuality…

…who know what it is like to go to sleep praying that you will not wake to the sound of guns in the distance.

…who know to lock the doors at night because there is no safe place…there is no safe place…there is no safe place…

…who stubbornly remain vulnerable in the face of fear because there is no safe place…no safe place…no safe place…

…who know the cost of dissent, the price of resistance, the punishment for rendering criticism.

…who know what it’s like to always be judged based on the color of your skin, the flag to which you pledge allegiance, the country of your origin…(fill in the blank)

…who know what it is like to be reviled, rejected, judged, ridiculed, belittled, cast out, ignored…(choose your own synonym)…

…who know what it’s like to hunger for words…to fight over words…to want to own words…to chase after glimpses of story in whatever form because there are never enough words to speak the stories that have grown and grown and grown…

…who understand what it’s like to dream of one day being that adventurer, that star traveller, that explorer, the one who discovers, who charts, who lays claim, who takes hold of–planets, countries, kingdoms…becomes ambassador…becomes forger of peace…savior instead of saved…redeemer instead of redeemed…

…who reach out in anxiety…who having found voice speak tentatively…because you have never had that freedom…to speak…to speak without anxiety…to speak without fear…to render criticism and not be cut down or imprisoned or taxed or punished or sent into exile…

…Oh who have fought not to be silenced….and having won…struggle not to fall into silence…do not fall into silence…do not allow yourself to fall into silence…do not…do not…do not surrender…do not give way.

Speak on.

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Thinking things through: kadkadua

In one of my brief forays into twitter yesterday, Corey Alexander tweeted out a link called: A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is what they learn.

I found myself reflecting on the word ally and what that word means. As I think on it, I find myself more and more disinclined to use the word ally. I don’t doubt that there are people who will tell me that I just don’t understand because English, but I want to think in terms that are rooted more in my own culture. I want to look deeper and find the words that are more meaningful to me and which I can use to refer to companions in my journey.

In recent work, I have used the word kadkadua, which is the Ilocano word for comrade and while the word comrade is a loaded word for some, I find myself thinking that it is a more human word than ally.

Where allyship is connected to causes, comradeship (in the sense of kadkadua) means companionship. In the literal translations for comrade, we see the words mate and friend connected, and to me this makes a world of difference.

In fact, if I think of what kadkadua means to me, it means someone who I consider to be the same as myself. We are bonded together not just because we share a cause but because there is mutual respect, understanding and love.

In this age where social media often functions like a podium, it’s easy to forget that there are people behind names. It’s true that the digital age has brought us much in terms of advantage, but it has also contributed to a certain mindset that does not allow for mistakes to be made, that does not allow for humanity, that does not allow for weakness.

To be a true comrade means that when you fall, I will lift you up. When you fail, I will still see you as human. When you are weak, I want to be your support.

As I read the works of indigenous writers, as I study the words of the babaylan, I find myself thinking of the harm inflicted not only on the colonized but also on the colonizer.

We damage the self when we rob the other of humanity. When we narrow down our speech to causes and forget the human element, we also wound our inner self. In justifying those wounds, we become callous and hard and bitter and when we do so we lose our ability to trust and to have faith and to hope for a future.

I acknowledge that I too have spoken out in anger, in rage and frustration. That I have also had moments where I forgot that the person on the other end is human. That the other person has a heart that can be wounded. I can only apologize for not being mindful and hope to be more mindful in the future.