Monday, September 24, 2007

Open Letter to Laura Bush From the Godmother, La Madrina

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks for La Madrina to Laura Bush

(imagery added by SL with best of intentions for the higher good, smile)

OPEN LETTER TO LAURA BUSH FROM LA MADRINA, THE GODMOTHER: “… no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this [war]…
By Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this, and certainly the commander in chief, who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.” Laura Bush

Dear Mrs. Bush,

With respect… You are an older woman of a certain age and so am I. You try to help people, and I try to help people too. You are a mother who loves her children; I am a mother who loves her children also. You support adult literacy projects, and because my family of immigrants could not read or write, I am committed to adult literacy too… your mother-in-law, Mrs. Bush elder, and I, were keynoters together at NY Literacy Partners.
But, you and I are different too. Your husband is the leader of ‘the free world.’ My husband is the leader of a cub scout pack of little boys who just earned their fishing badges. You live in a heavily guarded mansion; I walk alone on the streets. You have maids and chefs; I clean my house and cook pretty good posolé y csirke paprikás… no complaints.

You Made A Serious Error

In all sincerity, you made a grave mistake with your statement: “…no one suffers more than their president and I do…” You may have meant it as an unmindful figure of speech, however your choice of the words “their president,” uses a formal title, rather than what real people say when they are deluged by real suffering… Those who suffer speak in the familiar, the personal: “my husband,” “George,” “my mate.” Not, “their president.”
Your choice of the word, “watching,” implies observation from a distance. We all know you are not cheek-to-cheek with an M-14 or 16 rifle, nor are you expected to be. But, ‘watching’ cannot be compared with ‘the face-up and face-down’ suffering of military families and their loved ones who are ‘breathing sand’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor to the families of dear ones who are no longer breathing at all.
Certainly you and your husband suffer from whatever you bear. But it cannot be that ‘no one suffers more than you.’ Forgive me for saying so, but your comment fell far beneath a wisdom line that the soul eternally maintains.
La Madrina, The Godmother Rises to Speak Mrs. Bush… forensic analysis of words aside, in my ethnic traditions, when a younger woman makes an error, an older woman steps in to speak to her. Truly, someone older than you ought have la platica, a talk with you… not about your comment per se, but about the mindset that produced these seeming bombastic words. Since I am older than you, I humbly step up to be the point woman, the platicadora, to have a talk with you today…

I am a Madrina, a Godmother, and an abuelita, a grandmother, and these constitute my root authority to speak to you. I am not here to punish, for hardly anyone ever learns or considers anything new by being taunted, and all of us make mistakes. Neither am I here to make fun of you nor to patronize you. Perhaps you know already all I am about to say, in which case I would just offer to you what my own elders used to advise: “Listen anyway, so you might relearn what you have forgotten.”
I am just here as one who understands fairly well the pressures to build a public persona over the softer-bellied self. As an author who has toured widely, I’ve learned too when I go on tour, it’s best to take along a spare shoe or two, just in case I might accidentally put my foot in my mouth more than once. Everyone makes errors, Mrs. Bush. The remedy is to reset the words to say what you really meant, as quickly as possible.
Words That Fall Short of the Soul’s Bar“ No one suffers more than their president and I do…” I believe you could not have thought this statement through beforehand, for it pulverizes what we Latinos call, la tierra del alma, the ground of the true self… street cred. Your statement damaged your authentic standing about what kind of insightful heart you have, and how you understand the depth of suffering in persons who are not you.
If we were sharing a bistek ranchero at a local madre y padre cocina (diner) here, I think we’d agree right away that even though suffering is not a competition for who suffers most and how much and for how long, there are legions of people in this war who suffer more than we do, even though we might be filled up to capacity with our own sorrows. Certainly we are allowed to grieve our own cup of sorrow. But, regarding this war, if we each have our one full cup of sorrow, then others are being forced to drink gallons and gallons daily and endlessly Mrs. Bush.
When What is Heard Can Never Be Unheard Ever Again

Regarding the war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, I can just say this, having myself been caught in wars in Central America in the 1960s… When you and I were young mothers, we learned to tell the different kinds of cries our infants gave; hungry, lonely, wet, or ill.
And you and I now, all these years later with our children all grown up… still, when we hear a baby cry, no matter who that baby belongs to… we feel immediate pain literally in our breasts first, and we turn to see, Is care being given? Is everything all right? We can never forget the cry of the helpless young. Our bodies remember and go into ‘mother-alert’ before our minds can ever catch up.
In war there are also different kinds of cries; bellowings of stat commands, howls of warning, screams of those injured and maimed, and the worst of all, the screams of the souls who cannot be comforted.
No amount of our ‘watching’ war on television from 6000-plus miles away, not even by visiting the fronts briefly as ‘a political tourist’ rather than as a person, citizen, solder, commander, nurse, doctor, evac pilot, who stays onsite and struggles with the people for months and years… no amount of our seeing the very few pictures we’re allowed of grieving families and funerals… none of these can capture those cries of the souls who cannot be comforted.
Those cries are not five second segments on television before we cut to commercial; they cannot be contained in 7 column inches of newsprint. These cries go on until the people lose their voices and are screaming only air.
Screaming air… and the silence that follows is the kind of silence with whimpering and staring and stock stillness that you’d ‘pray and pay’ never to see or hear again, for those cries grab your guts right out of you and throw them on the floor. Those cries make you feel as though you yourself will die of a heart attack to hear them. Those cries remind you that you are caught in a madhouse and have no way out. Those cries make you think you will lose your mind in grief. Those cries make you ask God to consider destroying all of humankind and starting over again. Those cries make you think you are worthless, for you cannot intervene, nor save anything or anyone who is harmed or gone.
This is why, once you hear these kinds of cries and these kinds of silences, these kinds of empty bodies with souls above hovering, that you cannot live as though you never heard them. Those cries live on in your body now. And we haven’t even touched on the smells and sights and tastes and other sensory events of war pressed into ‘body memory’ for life. It’s a long, long road home again from the streets and plains of war, even once you are back home and/ or war is done.

Ceremonial Persona Covers Up Authenticity

Yet, even so Mrs. Bush, the critical factor missing in your statement was this: realness. Down to earth realness as opposed to ceremonial persona.
Beware ceremonial persona. Many a person who began public life ser humano, as a true human being, wound up within months, looking and acting as though they’d been made into a plasticized pink silk sofa while still alive. Beware ceremonial persona as a way of life, for the soul cannot co-exist in or with it.
When you said, “… no one suffers more than their president and I…” many have said you averred this because you are heartless and self-centered… but, I think it is more so your words came from speaking through the dust of all the many wearing pressures and events you’ve experienced thus far, all braided together
… and perhaps even more so, from the fatigue of wearing a false face toward the world… one that does not reflect your true thoughts and feelings. Any person can build on the river of realness, a concrete dam of such spans with castles atop it, that other fools will fall down in adoration of such concrete-works.
But, to dam a genuine river and just let a little bit of what was once leaping and sparkling water through to a reservoir kept deadly quiet, only allowing just a calculated bit of water across the spillway…
that’s not a real river. Nor a real life. Both have blocked off the true soul, keeping it from being seen in its native sensibilities, ones that carry intelligences that far eclipse the tiny ego’s alone.

Resist Being ‘Politically Correct’ I

In Any Direction

In our culture, accusing someone of being “politically correct’ is shorthand for “You did/said/wanted something I don’t like and don’t want to examine further with you; I don’t like you, what you said, or the horse you rode in on.” Pseudo-arguments about ‘political correctness’ stop rather than enable discussion. Evolution of ideas is halted by side-sniping about who is and who isn’t ‘politically correct.’ I suggest you not get tangled in those reins.
But, I will hope Mrs. Bush, that you will clarify your statement, adding some other words that show you did not mean to aver, “And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this, and certainly the commander in chief, who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.”
… that you didn’t mean to say the Bush family feelings, trump the suffering of others who endure this war first-line, firsthand, and for life.
I hope you will call in the press people of your choice, and not plan a big televised ‘special’ about how you and your husband are attending funerals and visiting the wounded…but just consider and say something simple along these lines:
“…I misspoke. I didn’t mean to put it that way. Perhaps I am exhausted from how unrelenting the bad news of death has been these many years, and I am prevailed upon by many people from all sides. I was just trying to say, I have no words, that sometimes you are out of your wits with the endlessness of death and destruction. I have my own sorrow about these matters, but I know that the families who have been and who are at peril, the ones who sacrifice every day, they are the ones who have the deepest courage, hope and the most anxiety and suffering of all.”

*(statement by Mrs. Laura Bush on NBC “Today Show,” April 25, 2007)
OPEN LETTER TO LAURA BUSH FROM LA MADRINA, THE GODMOTHER: “And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this [war]…” ©2007, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved. The entirety of this essay and poem is printed here at TMV under Creative Commons License by which author grants permission to copy, distribute and transmit this particular work under the conditions that the use be non-commercial, that the work be used in its entirety and not altered, added to, or subtracted from, and that it be attributed with author’s name and this full copyright notice. For other uses, contact copyright holder.

- We republish here with the intention to catapault La Madrina's voice from the highest mountain. Listen, listen carefully, her footsteps are coming up behind you...reminding you where you came from and where you will return. La Madrina reminds us of our personal connection to the divine and the importance of living a life of integrity.

Dr. Estes is a gift to the world, a cantadora (keeper of the stories), and former Director of the Carl Jung Institute in Colorado, she is the surrogate mother of millions.


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