Rising Together or Not at All: Restitching America’s Society

June 25th, 2020

By Les Crowder

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

A sewing needle weaves thread back and forth between the different pieces of fabric and pulls and holds them together. Good thread sewn well will not let the pieces separate even under a lot of stress. The warp and weft of the American social fabric is under considerable stress. It has shown signs of tearing, letting our separate groups tear apart. But the threads of social fabric are not strands of fiber, they are ideas in the minds of living, conscious people. We make these ideas into policies that govern how we treat each other. When we recognize that our belief about how we should be sewn together is wrong we must adjust, stretch, take up slack and hold the pieces together in a more perfect way, to make the garment better fit the true nature of our society. We must never give up: if we get drunk on anger and violence gets so easily out of control, we only tear the fabric and let the wholeness of the creature fall into naked pieces. The little raw unprotected pieces are not nearly as powerful as the pieces working together with mutual respect and equanimity.

The cells in your body are a good example of disparate pieces working together with mutual respect. A few handfuls of skin cells laying here, a chunk of brain over there, some red blood cells poured on the dirt all die quickly. But while you read this all these very different cells are working together to form a coherent, passionate you.

There are even cells in your body that are not operating with your human DNA. There are bacteria and fungi in your body right now that you cannot live without. All these human and nonhuman cells share the resources, nutrition and oxygen they need freely.

The blood in the blood stream is like the money distribution system in our economy, circulating resources fairly and as needed to all the cells so they can thrive as appreciated parts of the whole. There are no rich or poor cells, indeed if some cells take too many resources they become an infection or cancer that threaten the wholeness of the body. The autoimmune system must eliminate them. The cells of your body rise or fall together.

When we see people treated badly, killed unjustly before our ever present cameras eyes, anger is totally righteous. But it is very hard to steer, easily gets out of control. It can make us become the very thing we are angry about. We must ride the wave of anger, use it carefully. We should also not let it cool. It is time to strike while the iron is hot. It is time to strike and strike hard but not in a way that can make us anything but resolute justifiably angry people that will get the changes we need. There is no justification behind the many bullets that killed Breonna Taylor and a long list of other names. If we are careful, the moral high ground is easy to command, because racial injustice, murder by the “law”, tear gas and rubber bullets on people that are asking for justice within their right to assemble, pushing an old man down and claiming he is a secret terrorist agent: these things are so obviously not the moral high ground.

Americans together form the whole of America. We are Buddhist, Baptist, Methodist, Muslim and Mennonite, and all the colors of skin. We are accustomed to freedom of speech, the right to assemble peaceably, etc. but we have spent a lot of time separating ourselves. If you are Methodist how many Muslims do you know well? Rich and poor people don’t shop at the same stores. I know white people that insist they “don’t see color” but don’t have any close black friends. When we don’t communicate we can’t empathize with what we don’t know.

Groups like Braver Angels try to help us meet “other” kinds of people. It is not easy. It can be scary. Crossing borders between black and white, Hispanic, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian can be hard, even dangerous. But please try. We owe it to those who have died to not give up adjusting the way we are sewn together. We may never agree about Mr. Trump or religion but we can begin to see that rather than being evil or stupid the other kind of people have a different experience with the system we live in.

We have sewn ourselves together at times hastily and very unequally, even wickedly. Our quick and often violent plunging of the sewing needle has pulled us into structures that treated different pieces as less and more worthy. Native Americans were mostly sewn out with guns, a few survivors allowed to stay in a little pocket on some reservation with minimal economic value. The Africans also didn’t have guns so they were ripped out of the fabric of Africa and hastily sewn into plantations as livestock. The pieces were held by force, immoral law and violence. But force and violence don’t last as long as the human spirit. Someone let some words slip that won’t go away, actually they really are self-evident.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men (People), deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – The Declaration of Independence. 

These words won’t go away because through the millennia of hierarchical structures it is evident that we are all just people. There is no gender, color or culture of people that doesn’t want or deserve to be considered in that equality, no them and us, just one big confusing us. The words ring true even though the man who wrote them owned slaves and didn’t consider his own wife equal enough to vote. We have adjusted and must continue to adjust the tension of the threads.

We need to get to know each other better, admit to and make amends for some terrible crimes, and sew this diverse set of pieces together in a way that makes a coherent nation.  The people treated as less (and paid less), the women expected to give a little sex and do the same work for less money, the African American expected to be a cleaner, or aide, the Mexican expected to work for less than minimum wage, they are all getting understandably angry. A nation that survives the era of rapid communication and travel must respect all of its pieces and make sure the resources are shared fairly enough that we can thrive and feel we are respected parts of the whole. If the working poor cannot afford an adequate home, healthcare, and day-care, we break a rung on the ladder. If we break a rung in the ladder we all fall with the broken rung. The only way we can rise is if we all rise together and together we cannot be held down.

About the author:

“As a beekeeping teacher I meet many different kinds of people, some very wealthy and some extremely poor, of different cultures and colors, religions and family structures. I became passionate about respect. I don’t feel concerned about equality of income, I see the rich feel the need to hoard and display their wealth in order to try to feel secure. But I have lived with economic precarity, the fear of eviction, seen friends and family treated as inferior humans because they spoke Spanish or had dark skin, my wife has been called the N word at her work. I have sent many hours of most days of the year for decades in the company of honeybees. They inspired me to realize that the only way we can rise is if we all rise together. We have to stop trying to take advantage of “the working class”, stop pitting the poor of Bangladesh against the poor of Honduras in a race to the bottom of the wage competition. I see that it is time for labor to embrace the environment and rise into our tremendous power. When we do our world will change for the better.”

Les Crowder is a bilingual farm worker, beekeeper and teacher. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in biology/Spanish in 1981. Les began keeping bees (he often states they began keeping him) in Bernalillo, New Mexico, 40+ years ago. He began looking for ways to raise bees without antibiotics in his teenage years and has been breeding honeybees for disease and parasite resistance since then. He also began early on to search for ways to regularly renew the combs in beehives because research indicated that old cocoon-laded combs become havens for pathogenic fungi and bacteria that stress the bees; resistance to disease. This led him to experiment with topbar hives and eventually begin using them exclusively. Les has been president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association for many years, has been a honeybee inspector for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and has taught beekeeping in many parts of the world for more than 30 years. He is the co-author of “Top-Bar Beekeeping” (Chelsea Green Publishing 2012). He continues to teach and advocate nontoxic management of beehives, these days around Austin, TX.  He is married to Erron Neil-Crowder and lives near San Antonio, TX. Les works with beekeepers through the Bee-Mindful website.

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