Wednesday, November 3, 2021

See No Stranger, by Valarie Kaur

Sometimes the voice in a book matches the voice in your head, manifesting not only ideas and stories but your deepest convictions and understanding of how the world truly works. Such a book, for me, is See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, by Valarie Kaur. Though she writes from the perspective of the American Sikh community, much reviled, attacked, and yet invisible victims after September 11th, 2001, her realizations about community, opposition, and ways to push through pain and rage, should resonate with anyone grappling with America’s upsurge in hatred, wondering what to do, how to protect targets of violence, and how to go to its sources, to do the hard work of reconciling. 

She teaches how to move past judgments into wonder, into hearing the stories of those who have wronged us. She’s clear: “Reconciliation mends what has been torn asunder, but it does not return us to a point before the harm happened. Perpetrators and survivors can just leave each other alone after that. Roshan acknowledged that, even after his apology, I still did not owe him a relationship.” 

Kaur’s life was a perfect storm of harrowing abuse, physical pain, disrespect, and self-doubt. And by pushing through, with the loving support of a community, she has used her experiences to inform the lessons she offers – we know she lives her ideas because we can see what it cost her to learn them. 

I’m not Sikh, I’m a person of privilege in this society, a well-off white woman whose upbringing was easy – a loving family, encouraging teachers, opportunities to expand the possibilities of mind and body – and yet, to live honestly in 2021 I am summoned to leave my comfort zone, to undertake the work of healing the world. Like any journey, it’s a process of steps, small movements from origin toward destination. My circumstances and my skills are different from Kaur’s, but each must use the tools we have. No one’s keeping score except the inner critic and the wise heart, the former saying, “you’ll never get there,” the latter noticing, “you’re further than you were. Don’t give up.” 

This book was my call to action – maybe it will be yours too!