On this one-year marking of the horror of Charlottesville and the unacceptable response of the President equivocating and equating people espousing vile beliefs and ideology of hatred with those marching against evil, I’m reading Toni Morrison. Perhaps our, and I mean America’s, most ardent and eloquent voice for the dignity of all humans, Morrison published a short volume entitled “The Origin of Others,” a collection of lectures she gave at Harvard. Here in the passage I wish to quote, she speaks to the psychological truth we find each day in the psychotherapeutic project: we are all one in our diverse representations of what is Human. Each day in my office, people struggle, work with, embrace this fact: the Other is ourselves. And in doing this work, not only does compassion flourish and a better way of living together emerge, but one’s notion of oneself expands as well.
To remember Charlottesville and the tragic murder of 32-year old Heather Heyer, I offer these words from Toni Morison:
…there are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from. For the stranger is not foreign, she is random; not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known – although unacknowledged – selves that summons a ripple of alarm. That makes us reject the figure and the emotions it provokes – especially when these emotions are profound. It is also what makes us want to own, govern and administrate the Other. To romance her, if we can, back into our own mirrors. In either instance (of alarm or false reverence), we deny her personhood, the specific individuality we insist upon for ourselves.