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Living in the Underbelly: A Strategy

During the first Bush war the faculty and staff at the university where I worked organized several teach-ins to make clear what was at stake. The word "empire" was only just being embraced by the Bush administration as a positive description of the US. One political scientist compared empires to an 800 pound gorilla whose mammoth size creates all kinds of problems, kind of like a bull in a china shop analogy. It was then that I began to fully understand the underbelly of my country.

An underbelly is the (usually) hidden and corrupt areas of a nation. And we now live in a time when the underbelly of the US has been fully revealed. Put simply, our underbelly is the absurd obsession that value some bodies more than others based on random categories such as the amount of melanin in one's skin, or the idea that genitalia that we have (or not) somehow represents intelligence or status. It includes the idea that a b birthplace denotes which side of a border one has to live. And, in terms of the Jewish and Christian faiths this is a lie that flies in the face of the Creation story when all of creation is declared "very good." It is a ridiculous and dangerous belief that permeates much of our way of relating to one another governs the ways that jobs, status and privilege is accessible. Yet, there is good news....

The second meaning to the word "underbelly" is that this is the soft, unprotected part where attacks can be made. It is precisely this belief that must be attacked and defeated. The idea that somehow it is all right to prioritize some (few) bodies and undervalue the (many) bodies of others is deeply flawed and disastrous, not to mention, the very antithesis of the values of a democracy. If we are to be a strong nation and maintain our principles of freedom and equality for all, then those of us who understand that God lives among us, even taking human form to show us what love is - love of neighbor, love of oneself, love of one's enemies - simply have to speak up and go on the offensive. We have to attack this underbelly of an oversized empire that is exponentially destroying lives.

The peculiar underbelly of the US can no longer hidden in the history books as it is evident daily through the actions of a racist administration and the inaction of a cowardly Congress. People of good faith must heed the words of Martin Luther King who wrote,

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."(*)

We dare not be silent. Let us talk about the body - about pleasure - and diversity - and the sacredness of our relationship to one another.  Let us ridicule and shame those who are so small minded as to conclude skin tone or birthplace is somehow a measure of the worth and value. Let us practice random acts of kindness and pass along as many hugs as are needed.All bodies are beautiful. All are to be valued and respected.

We know the truth and it is the truth that shall set us free: Love is the answer.

*Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr.

 ** Genesis 1:28



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