« Two Nations | Main | My Summer Vacation in Afghanistan »

Midwiving a New America

By Vincent G. Harding

I think it was sometime early in 2007 that I began to find myself almost possessed by a profound premonitory sense that the next year, this year, 2008, would be filled with a special power. At first I was unable to articulate or explain my feeling with any more clarity than a deep and growing conviction that we were approaching what my Buddhist friends would call a propitious historical moment. Although I realized that the likelihood of an amazing presidential electoral possibility was a part of the story, I knew there was more at work. I began increasingly to suspect that there was a relentless connection in my mind (and heart) to the fact that the spring of 2008 would mark 40 years since the assassination of my friend and brother, Martin King. Grounded as I am in the biblical accounts of 40 days and nights of rain, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, 40 days of testing and preparation for Jesus’ ministry, I could not resist the possible symbolic associations and what meaning they might have.

Earlier this year I shared my ruminations with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a long-time friend and co-worker. Art said that he had often sought to understand the persistent presence and power of the number 40 in the Hebrew texts. What had begun to be evident to him, he reported, was the fact that while we usually speak in our culture of nine months as the normal time of a woman’s pregnancy before giving birth, the more precise and traditional period is actually given as 40 weeks. As soon as I heard Art’s words it became clearer to me what I had been feeling, sensing so deeply. And I began to try to articulate it for myself and others: Something is trying to be born in America. Again, I’m not quite certain what it is, but the new emerging reality seems firmly related to the visionary calls of King and the earlier urgent hope of Langston Hughes (”O, let America be America again/The land that never has been yet/and yet must be /The land where every [one] is free.”) Suffusing all of it I hear as well the beautiful wisdom and strong challenge of June Jordan: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

So as this year went on, as I sat one August night in Denver among the tens of thousands of on-site witnesses to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, it seemed obvious to me that my young brother was related to all of this, but more as an opening, an opportunity, a new space. He seems to offer the place where all the “we” people can stop our waiting and carry on our work to create the pathway, the birthing channel toward “The land that never has been yet, and yet must be.” Indeed, as I wrestled with Biblical symbols, the birthing imagery and the calls of Langston, Martin and June (herself the marvelous offspring of Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ann Braden, and Amzie Moore), I could not escape another revelatory metaphor. Not only is something trying to be born in America, but some of us are called to be the midwives in this magnificent, desperately needed and so painfully creative process.

As so often happens, the midwife metaphor overtook me before I knew what it really meant. So I turned to Selena Green, a gifted, compassionate and socially-conscious midwife, and asked her to tell me something about what she does. Selena said that one of her most crucial roles, especially toward the final days of a pregnancy, was to help assure the mother that “you can do this,” and that she is not alone in the very difficult journey. Then this highly skilled practitioner shared with me another extraordinary element in the description of her loving ministry (of course Selena’s work deeply fulfills the basic definition of ministry as “an act of serving”). Often, especially in the last stages of a pregnancy, this spiritually -grounded companion of hope said she also speaks to the infant in the womb.

Recognizing the deep sense of safety and security experienced by the womb-kept child, imagining the great joy involved in having all his/her needs supplied almost effortlessly, Selena said she shares words of encouragement with the infant as well. Like a womb-whisperer, she says something like, “I know how good you feel, how surrounded you are by a protective nurturing ocean of love. I realize it feels as if this is the only world you need to know. But, my child, when you start to feel the urgent life forces beginning to move you down, to push you out, to press your tender head into that seemingly impossible opening, go. Let yourself move toward the light, painful though it may be. The fullness of your life is waiting for you on the other side. Go, come, my child. You can, you must make it through. You can do this.”

Even as Selena shared her marvelous work and words with me, I began to see their meaning for our nation and its social midwives. We Americans are both mother and infant, giving birth, seeking new life, full of fear, full of pain, turning away from the possibility of even more pain, feeling “the urgency of now,” wondering if we are able, afraid of what the new life demands and costs, fearful of giving up all we know (or think we know) so well, grasping all that keeps us from new beginning, from new life. Afraid of the pain, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the hope, we live urgently in need of midwives. Are we the ones?

Over the past several weeks, as I have shared these searching reflections with other people in what I like to call “democratic conversations,” my own perceptions have been expanded. For instance, in one of Atlanta’s Historic Black Colleges, a group of Morehouse men immediately grasped and celebrated the idea that they could be midwives for the nation (following in the steps of their most renowned alumnus, Martin Luther King, Jr.). In another Atlanta session two women who had given birth years before remembered their own labor. One of them recalled screaming, pleading with her midwife to find some way to stop the labor process and its agonizing pain. Then, she also shared with us the power that entered her being when her midwife urged her, encouraged her, helped her to face the pain; “turn into the pain, don’t run away,” her helper said. Facing the pain, the mother recalled, she endured and overcame. In Boston, a female hospice doctor called my attention to how much my womb-whisperer friend, Selena, was like their hospice service - helping, encouraging that fetus to give up one surely satisfying life for the great possibility of moving toward something magnificently more. So midwives and hospice attendants may work together in this powerful moment, helping us face the pain of dying and being born, letting America become the land that never has been yet, and yet must be.

Perhaps this deepening of my own vision was why I needed to return last week to Denver and share the midwife call in a class I was visiting at the Iliff School of Theology (where I taught for 23 years before retirement - whatever that means). There, a student came up to me at the end of the class, identified herself as a midwife and said “When I go through the pain with my mothers, not only do I say, ‘you can do it,’ I say, ‘you are doing it.’” Is it possible that those are the words, the hope needed for a nation now filled with political, social, economic and spiritual crisis? Perhaps the Chinese pictograph for the word “crisis” is the word that midwives must carry: “Crisis: time of great danger/time of great opportunity.” Perhaps we are the ones who will walk through the great danger into the marvelous opportunity for helping our nation begin in a new way to realize its best possibilities - to be born again. Perhaps we are not only the ones we’ve been waiting for, but we are the ones who have already begun to do the work of creating a more perfect union. And we are not alone.

From October, 2009

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.firstofthemonth.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/29

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Midwiving a New America:

» Wedding Dress from Wedding Dress
Wedding Dress [Read More]

Tracked on March 8, 2011 02:00 AM

» missouri dwi from missouri dwi
missouri dwi [Read More]

Tracked on March 22, 2011 01:20 PM

» St. Louis Loans from St. Louis Loans
St. Louis Loans [Read More]

Tracked on March 29, 2011 03:36 PM

» Free Printable Coupons from Rewards Free Printable Coupons
Free grocery store coupons for local super markets. [Read More]

Tracked on April 20, 2011 05:06 AM

» Free Easy Credit Card Debt Relief from Free Credit Card Debt Relief
Free Easy Debt Relief provides professional Debt Settlement, Debt Management and Credit Counseling services designed to help you avoid bankruptcy while... [Read More]

Tracked on April 20, 2011 09:26 PM

» Solar Power San Diego from San Diego Solar Installation
San Diego's premier solar panel installation specialists. [Read More]

Tracked on April 22, 2011 03:41 AM

» Fast Debt Relief from Fast
Receive a free credit consultation and eliminate your credit card debt today. We specialize in credit repair, improving your credit rating and cleaning up [Read More]

Tracked on April 23, 2011 08:30 PM

» Debt Consolidation Alternative Solutions from Tips for Those with Too Much Credit Card Debt
Tips [Read More]

Tracked on April 24, 2011 04:07 PM

» Tee Times Discounts - Save 80% on Golf Tee Times from Tee Times Discounts
Save up to 80% or more on Golfing Tee Times. [Read More]

Tracked on April 29, 2011 08:03 AM

» Correction Vision LASIK from Correction Vision
Correction Vision - LASIK Eye evaluations and information. [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2011 03:31 AM

» Free Credit Score for Free from free credit score for free
Free Credit Score for Free [Read More]

Tracked on May 5, 2011 01:50 AM

» Man what an interesting post. from Salon St Louis
I saw this really intriguing post today and I wanted to link to it. [Read More]

Tracked on July 29, 2011 03:27 PM

» Easy Forex Trading from Easy Forex Trading
Easy Forex Trading [Read More]

Tracked on August 4, 2011 08:58 PM

» SEO Software from SEO Software
SEO Software [Read More]

Tracked on August 5, 2011 11:13 AM

» easy forex trading from easy forex trading
easy forex trading [Read More]

Tracked on August 6, 2011 01:05 PM

» easy anniversary gifts from easy anniversary gifts
easy anniversary gifts [Read More]

Tracked on August 9, 2011 08:44 PM

» Man what an interesting post. from Concrete Overlays St Louis
I saw this really great post today and I wanted to link to it. [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2011 01:35 PM

» Man what an interesting post. from Decorative Concrete St Louis
I saw this really intriguing post today and I wanted to link to it. [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2011 02:04 PM

» Man what an interesting post. from Refinance St Louis
I saw this really intriguing post today and I wanted to link to it. [Read More]

Tracked on September 3, 2011 12:54 AM

» Beauty Salons St. Louis from Hair Salon St Louis
Excellent thread, I saw this really great thread today and I wanted to link to it. Thanks again for taking the time to post. [Read More]

Tracked on November 9, 2011 12:26 PM

» madonna tickets from madonna tickets
madonna tickets [Read More]

Tracked on April 12, 2012 07:07 PM

» one direction new york from one direction new york
one direction new york [Read More]

Tracked on April 27, 2012 06:10 PM

» andrea bocelli tickets from andrea bocelli tickets
andrea bocelli tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 7, 2012 09:08 PM

» andrea bocelli tickets from andrea bocelli tickets
andrea bocelli tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 16, 2012 02:43 AM

» Carrie Underwood Tickets from Carrie Underwood Tickets
Carrie Underwood Tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 18, 2012 05:39 PM

» carrie underwood tickets from carrie underwood tickets
carrie underwood tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 19, 2012 02:41 PM

» Leonard Cohen Tickets from Leonard Cohen Tickets
Leonard Cohen Tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 21, 2012 01:59 AM

» Porsche Owners from Porsche Owners
Porsche Owners [Read More]

Tracked on May 22, 2012 03:34 PM

» phoenix internet marketing from phoenix internet marketing
phoenix internet marketing [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2012 01:57 PM

» Phoenix Web Design from Phoenix Web Design
Phoenix Web Design [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2012 04:55 PM

» justin bieber tickets from justin bieber tickets
justin bieber tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 24, 2012 02:37 PM

» justin bieber tickets from justin bieber tickets
justin bieber tickets [Read More]

Tracked on May 30, 2012 11:09 AM

» make money online from make money online
make money online [Read More]

Tracked on June 13, 2012 03:21 PM

» trackback poster from trackback poster
trackback poster [Read More]

Tracked on June 13, 2012 06:41 PM

» louis vuitton pas cher from louis vuitton pas cher
I differ with most people here; I found this blog post I couldn’t stop until I finished, even though it wasn’t just what I had been searching for, was still a nice read though. I will instantly get your blog feed to stay in touch of any updates. [Read More]

Tracked on April 18, 2013 09:09 AM

» asics kayano gel from asics kayano gel
Hands down, Apple's app store wins by a mile. It's a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I'm not sure I'd want to bet on the future if this aspe... [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2013 02:14 AM

» wholesale nfl jerseys from wholesale nfl jerseys
I have been surfing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, theweb will be much more useful than... [Read More]

Tracked on August 16, 2013 04:43 AM

» binary options brokers from binary options brokers
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on August 26, 2013 11:45 PM

» Trade Options from Trade Options
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on August 27, 2013 08:01 PM

» hd pvr from hd pvr
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on September 1, 2013 07:35 PM

» forex trading from forex trading
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2013 02:44 AM

» モンクレール レディース from モンクレール レディース
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2013 02:49 AM

» モンクレール レディース from モンクレール レディース
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2013 02:50 AM

» モンクレール ジャケット from モンクレール ジャケット
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 5, 2013 10:05 PM

» Free IMVU Credits Hack 2013 No Survey from Free IMVU Credits Hack 2013 No Survey
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 6, 2013 08:31 PM

» keyword1 from keyword1
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 10, 2013 09:06 PM

» モンクレール ダウン from モンクレール ダウン
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 12, 2013 08:11 AM

» keyword3 from keyword3
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2013 05:03 AM

» keyword1 from keyword1
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2013 03:21 PM

» keyword1 from keyword1
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2013 03:22 PM

» useful reference from useful reference
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on October 21, 2013 04:36 PM

» http://www.topmall4u.com/cheap-nba-jerseys.html from http://www.topmall4u.com/cheap-nba-jerseys.html
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on January 22, 2014 09:07 AM

» car insurance quotes online from car insurance quotes online
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on February 7, 2014 10:18 PM

» Michael Kors Outlet from Michael Kors Outlet
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on February 20, 2014 02:33 AM

» Cheap Michael Kors Purses from Cheap Michael Kors Purses
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on April 14, 2014 07:07 PM

» シャネル 長財布 from シャネル 長財布
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on April 15, 2014 05:22 PM

» シャネル 長財布 from シャネル 長財布
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on April 15, 2014 05:24 PM

» christian louboutin outlet online from christian louboutin outlet online
Man is the artificer of his own happiness. [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2014 07:16 PM

» eli from eli
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on June 3, 2014 06:20 PM

» buy custom apple cases from buy custom apple cases
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on July 1, 2014 02:40 PM

» air max baratas from air max baratas
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on July 5, 2014 10:01 AM

» Nike Air Max 95 from Nike Air Max 95
First of the Month [Read More]

Tracked on July 24, 2014 05:29 PM

Comments