Thursday, March 28, 2013

New weekly 'column': Life at the Intersection


This is a new weekly "column" on ReconcilingWorks' blog by Michael Cobbler, a member of the organization's Board of Directors and its Co-Director of the Committee for Working at the Intersection of Oppressions.

Peace and blessings to you all! This is the first of weekly blog posts on my musings, reflections and insights on working at the intersection of oppressions through ReconcilingWorks. My own simple definition of an intersection is "the place where roads, realities, and the beings that move on and in them meet." When the element of oppressions is added, it is like a massive traffic jam, where some wonderful and/or dangerous things can happen.

While visiting New York City, my beloved home town, a few weeks ago, I was in the midst of a one of those traffic jams on a Sunday evening. It took one hour to go from the Manhattan Bridge to the Holland Tunnel, a distance of 0.7 miles. While at the intersection of Canal Street and the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Ave), I stopped in the middle of the intersection to allow oncoming traffic to turn left in front of me. The lane to my right was clear, but it was a right-turn lane. The driver in the oncoming car saw it as an opportunity to turn left, and I acknowledged that with a nod. At the same time, a car was moving up in the lane to my right with the clear intent to go straight ahead, ignoring the right-turn-only sign on the road. I was certain in that split second I would be a witness to a crash. Somehow, the cars both stopped within one-quarter of an inch of each other, and neither of them struck my car. All the drivers and passengers had grateful looks on their faces.

In reflecting on that event, I realized three things. First of all, the intersection of oppressions is often crowded, and there is often something coming into the intersection that you may not see right away. Seek the eyes of others when you can, and take steps to increase your own awareness. Secondly, working at the intersection of oppressions is all about "oppression-moving and people-building" and not about "people-moving and oppression-building." There is a profound human element in all that we do, and working at the intersection is the work of people-building. Compassion is one of our watchwords, even with those who may ignore the road signs. We need not replace old oppressions with newly minted ones. Lastly, as we approach the Easter season, we are reminded of the ultimate intersection, of which Martin Luther reminds us in the second verse of "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands." He wrote (from the "old school" Richard Massie translation):

It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended;
The victory remained with life; the reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly says that death is swallowed up in death,
Its sting is lost forever. Hallelujah!


At the intersection of life and death, the oppressions have already been shown the door, and the door is Jesus Christ. In our ReconcilingWorks, we are to manifest, magnify and master the tools of justice, love and reconciliation, so all who are on the road may, someday, have grateful looks on their faces and hearts.

Next week, I will lift up "coalitions of possibility." Have a Blessed Easter!

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