As I read news reports of the election results in Alabama and the dumpster fire that passes for the United States Senate, it struck me that people in power are not interested in peace. They thrive on agitation, on disruption. We have become accustomed to the word grenades that get tweeted in the middle of the night, and the legislative gymnastics of the congressional leadership (though I use that word cautiously)—both are designed to hold on to power, not to lead us to peace. They don’t know much about peace because they operate out of fear, and they foment it as well.
The brave people are the people of color who elected Doug Jones in Alabama, where the fear-gripped legislature passed restrictive voter ID laws and then closed driver’s license bureaus in predominantly African American counties. And the voters still turned out. The victory does not belong to the machinations of power, but to the peaceful determination of those who are mostly disregarded by the very system they used to bring change.
In Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice, bell hooks says, “Communities of care are sustained by rituals of regard.” (141) Over the years, I have come to see the difference between a ritual and a habit. A habit is something you do because you just got used to doing it that way. Some habits are helpful: I have a routine I follow every morning because I am not awake enough to think about anything. Some habits are not, and our repetition keeps us from seeing wider possibilities. Ritual, on the other hand, is meaningful repetition. We do what we do over and over again because it grounds us in the stories that matter most. When I hear rituals of regard, I see repeated gestures of kindness, regular gatherings together around dinner tables, and repeatedly looking for ways to tighten the bonds between us.
While the dumpster fire blazed, people drove others to the polls, people voted, people encouraged and took care of one another—showed regard for one another—and it made a difference. Our nation is in crisis. The people in power are fine with that. It means they will stay in power, and they will make money. Their is nothing in their repertoire that calls them to rituals of regard. “Blessed are the peace makers,” Jesus said. Blessed are those who spread peace repeatedly and on purpose.
I want to be one of them.