In these relevant and poignant words Robert Bly lifts up literature, art, and poetry as our best cultural weapons against the toxic denial that’s eating at the soul of our nation. Sadly, the humanities have taken a beating within our nation’s colleges and universities. This only magnifies the need for a sense of urgency among our most creative individual and thinkers.
“It’s possible that the United States has achieved the first consistent culture of denial in the modern world. Denial can be the considered as an extension- into all levels of society – of the näive person’s inability to face the harsh facts of life…
We have establish with awesome verve, the animal denial as the guiding beast of the nation’s life. The inner city collapses, and we build bad housing projects rather than face the bad education, lack of jobs, and persistent anger at black people. When the homeless increase, we build dangerous shelters rather than face the continuing decline in actual wages…
Earnest Becker says that denial begins with the refusal to admit that we will die…Death is intolerable. To eat, shit, and rot is unthinkable for those of us brought up with our own bedrooms. We want special treatment, eternal life on other planets, toilets that will take away our shit and its smell…This mechanism of denial, once established by the longing not to see death. . .becomes rooted in our whole way of being. We specialize in not seeing what the deficit and rapid use of oil will do to our grandchildren…
…In this situation, art and literature are more important than ever before. Essays, poetry, fiction, still relatively cheap to print, are the best hope in making headway against denial. The corporate deniers own television. We can forget about that. There’s no hope in commercial television at all. The schools teach denial by not teaching, and the students’ language is so poor that they can’t do anything but deny. School boards forbid teachers in high school to teach conflict, questioning authority, picking apart arguments, mockery of news, and corporate lies.
…Great art and literature are the only models we have left to help us stop lying. The greater the art the less the denial. We don’t need avant-garde art now, but great art…Eating bitter means to turn and face life. If we deny our animalness, our shit, and death, if we refuse to see the cruelties and abuse by [corporate] executives, presidents, and sexual abusers, it means we have turned our backs on life. If we turn our backs on life don’t be surprised if we kill the poor, the homeless, ourselves, and the earth. Getting rid of denial, then means getting used to the flavor of “bitter,” getting used to having that flavor of bitter truth in the mouth.”
From The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, by Robert Bly.
After Jesus emerges from his fasting he spends a great portion of his ministry afflicting the “haves” and comforting the “have nots”. He seems to have no use for an economic system that allows greedy “tax” collectors, for example, to prey upon the most fragile. This focal point of Jesus’s ministry cannot be ignored during one’s Lenten journey . . .or after.
For the Christian, and non-Christian, poverty is a moral issue. It’s sinful no matter how we look at as it is created and perpetuated by humans.
Decades ago the United States declared a “war on poverty”. Here is what Stringfellow had to say at the time on the matter:
. . .a war on poverty has been declared, but as of now, it seems more an appeasement of the conscience of the prosperous than empathy for the sufferings of the poor. Poverty cannot be undone in America by appropriating a nickel where five dollars is required.” William Stringfellow, Dissenter in a Great Society.
Stringfellow’s could have easily been written in 2015. Everyone, Christians included, as Stringfellow later explains, are part of the political process whether we want to be or not, Poverty is not only a moral crisis, but it is also a political one: it is sinful and it is a matter of life and death for those who live it day in and day out.
For us Christians in the United States, as part of the church and part of the political process, there really isn’t any question as to how we are called to act upon the matter.
“Oh good, another writing assignment to limit my creativity”
Honest words from a student today as I handed out an essay assignment to prepare my class for state testing. She speaks the truth.
Unlike the recent viral video of the disrespectful rant from Jeff Bliss, a high school student in Duncanville, Texas, seventeen year old, Luis Ruuska of Tennessee, offers a sound and rational defense of America’s educators. Read his well written article on the Huffington Post.
A new report from the Dallas Morning News highlights how testing punishes special education students (in many instances guaranteeing failure), while schools are held accountable for circumstances beyond their control. Unconscionable!