How Can Political Discourse be Healing?
Is “healing political discourse” an oxymoron? Last weekend, I took a leap of faith with the launch of my first politically-oriented event at Kismet Cowork, Hear Me Roar: Creative Writing to Heal the Culture. Part panel discussion, part informal writing workshop, the free event went so well that I’m confident the moment is ripe for people in our community to find their courage, write their truth, and grow and heal together.
Hear Me Roar had a long gestation period, but it was born in response to the presidential election in 2016. For many of us, DT’s election was a trauma trigger—nothing less. I believe the outrage and tears following that election helped spawn the #MeToo movement, the #Neveragain movement, and have given a new urgency to cultural waves from Black Lives Matter to the Standing Rock demonstrations.
I knew that in order to contribute to the larger cultural movement, I had to be thoughtful about who I am—and who I am not. First, I am a writer. I am also a wife, mother, and a sexual trauma survivor. I am someone who has to work on feeling safe in situations that might not faze someone else. I’m also learning that self-care isn’t selfish—my ability to show up for other people from family to writing students depends on taking responsibility for my own well-being…and it’s an antidote to burnout.
Since the idea to do a political event popped into my head, it shaped up into something bigger than what I used to call “political.” Since it was a free event, I figured the no-show number would be fairly high. Instead, out of 13 people registered, only one was a no-show.
The beauty of the three-hour event sprang from collaboration. My family helped, in big and small ways. By dear friend D. kept me sane, but was also able to participate in the workshop. The three panelists, John Timpane, Rita Fierro, and Janet Benton, set me at ease with their warmth and enthusiasm. The participants offered me their trust and open expectation, and I did my best to honor everyone’s need for safety.
Since the election two years ago, my particular sense of the political urgency of the moment centers around healing—healing at the personal level, healing of families, healing of neighborhoods, healing on the Systems level. But how does that happen?
Above all, healing happens in community. On Saturday, none of the panelists presented as being “above” any of the attendees, sharing not as experts to be admired, but as explorers on a journey together with the participants. Panelists and participants alike did the writing exercises.
Healing involves risk. Those who read the results of a writing exercise out loud took a big risk by sharing their inner lives with people they’d never met before. Those who were more quiet risked possibly being overlooked in their silence. I took a risk by planning an event unlike any I’d done before, not knowing for sure if anyone would show up!
Healing involves creative experimentation. To free their voices, Creative writers often have to work against the training they received in school. The natural playfulness of the children we once were is a great asset. With the right kind of support, we can channel that innate, childlike instinct for the “magical” in our work.
True healing means developing empathy. Trauma is rife in our culture, and we protect ourselves by vilifying people we disagree with. Healing comes from understanding ourselves, our fears, and our courage—and from dropping reactive judgments toward the other side of any divide.
To bring this post full circle, we return to community. No matter how damaged we may feel, our stories matter in the world. No matter how alone we have been in our suffering, there are kind friends with whom we may risk being ourselves. No matter how toxic our political landscape is, our truth and our healing words have a ripple affect that will resonate after we are long gone.
–-The pen, expressing our soul’s passion, is mightier than the sword because the imagination can change the life of a people at their very roots. –Thomas Moore.
If you want to hear about future Hear Me Roar events in Philadelphia, please send me an email.