Sunday, April 9, 2017

Courageous in the Face of Fear

Fear is powerful.
Perhaps that is why people in power capitalize on fear to get what they want. Any president in power during a war used fear to manipulate peace. And traffickers and abusers use fear to control their captives. Fear of the "other" was a strong theme during our election season. Candidates capitalized on fear to get what they wanted, election. And our current president is using fear of deportation to maintain the facade of order. But what most do not know is that fear of deportation and hyper-militarization has been a reality on the border for decades. Presidents with immigration policies on both sides of the aisle militarized the border and has "kept peace" on the border using fear.
I would say that fear does anything but bring peace.

As a result of the tangible culture of fear in the Rio Grande Valley, the people are strong. They may still be scared, but they have to continue living through the fear. And many have learned that they have their own kind of power. It is not the power of the oppressor, but the power of the oppressed.

Many of "the oppressed" who have found their power are women. Oppression has not crushed women, oppression has made them subtly stronger so they can help create stronger future generations of women. Women keep the culture going. Women teach, women learn, women immigrate, women advocate, and women make change. These women have plenty to fear: abusive husbands, deportation, and border patrol. But these women have the courage to stand up to their husbands who just arrived home from the bar and protect their children. Women have the courage to face our government and demand change. Women have the courage to do what has never been done before. They may put their own lives on the line, but it is worth helping others and creating a more just world. As an African proverb wisely states, "If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation." I am finding this to be true. Empowered women create empowered children and bring about an empowered generation. I want to introduce you to three of these inspiring women. All names have been changed for privacy.

Maria:
Maria is a woman in her mid-thirties. She is your average woman and often pulls back her dark curls into a pony tail. Maria has seven children, ranging in age from 1 year to about 14. Maria’s husband is verbally abusive and spends most of the day with other men who have drug and gang affiliations. Maria spends the day in a tiny pop-up trailer cooking, cleaning, and finding work where she can. She lives for her children and will do anything to protect them. She brings them all to mass on Sunday without their father. She recently expressed her fear of her husband and what he might do to her and her children. When we brought her some information on domestic violence abuse she bravely stated, if it gets any worse I am telling my husband that I will leave him and I will call this number. I can’t imagine what strength it will take for her to leave and start new, but her children are too precious.

Ramona and I after an inspirational week with ARISE.

Ramona:
Ramona is a community leader. Her goal is to empower other women to make change. She lives by the motto “we do not do for the people what the people can do for themselves.” The organization Ramona works for, ARISE, is led by all women. She believes that if we invest in women, teach them to read and speak English, use herbal medicines and other valuable information, then we will create a chain reaction. The women will teach their children what they have learned, and the community becomes a better place. Ramona is making these courageous women into leaders. But she is not doing it alone, what wisdom!

Members of South Tower Power speaking to City of Alamo officials.

Lisa and Carmen:
Lisa and Carmen are 18 and 16 years old respectively. They work with Ramona at ARISE. They are a part of the organization’s youth advocacy program. These women, immigrants who live in a poor colonia, are lobbying the government for change to the environmental racism they are experiencing. The water treatment plant for a city north of their community has been filling their streets with a foul sewage smell for over 50 years. The smell can create health problems and often gives headaches to the residents because of its strength. It is only in the past two years that anyone has been able to make a difference. This effort is entirely led by the youth and they have succeeded in the city promising to build an up-to-date water treatment plant which will solve the smell. Lisa and Carmen speak eloquently and passionately about the issue saying that they learned the invaluable skill of leadership through their involvement. To read more about their effort you can check out #southtowerpower and #stopthesmell on social media or read this article

Each of these courageous women inspire me. They make me want to be courageous too. But the most inspiring part? They don’t realize they are being brave. They just keep living and doing what is in their heart. Their lives may be full of fear. They may fear their husband. They may fear leaving the house because of the increased presence of border patrol. They may fear being deported and separated from their family and lifeline. They may fear the conditions in which they are forced to live. But they continue to live. What other choice do they have?

This year as holy week begins, I find myself reflecting on the fears present in the scriptures. We hear often from Jesus, "do not be afraid." There must have been a lot of fear if he had to say it so often. Now that I think of it, it seems as if fear is a human quality. Fear arises when the illusion of control is dismantled in our lives. Ironically, our fear often ends up controlling us.

I am fearful when I move or change jobs. Jesus was fearful in the garden of Gethsemane before his capture. The scribes and pharisees feared Jesus because he brought into question all that controlled their lives. Peter feared being mocked which led him to deny knowing Jesus. The women of Jerusalem feared what might become of their children. For this holy week, why not reflect on what I fear? What do I fear most? Why am I scared? What can and do I do to continue living in the face of my fear? What consolation does Jesus have for my fears? How do I hear his "be not afraid"?

We need to not let our fear control us. We need to be courageous like Maria, Ramona, Lisa, and Carmen. What other choice do we have? Being constantly fearful is no way to live. Causing constant fear is no way to live.

1 comment:

  1. "The greatest fear is fear itself!" FDR
    I try to remember this always!

    ReplyDelete