Re-membering

Dear President Biden,

A friend of mine texted yesterday morning to let me know that he’d been thinking of Joe Manchin in response to my “Joe McConnell” flub rather than about you. While I do think it’s reasonable to harbor concerns about why you, too, keeping pressing for the completely unrealistic unicorn of bipartisanship, it does make sense to call Joe Manchin out (again) for his continued self-serving GOP propping. So, how about we go with “Mitch Manchin” when referring to this particular flavor of selfish betrayal? It has a certain alliterative ring to it, hitting both the M and the ch sounds rather nicely and it could maybe be a useful, catchy, way of shaming the Manchin portion of the pairing into reconsidering his indefensible position on the filibuster, the Mitch portion of the pairing being obviously well beyond redemption.

And yes, I realize that this particular mash-up is probably all over Twitter and that I’m likely a Janey-come-lately (or just “late”) to the idea, but since I’m not on Twitter (or Instagram or Facebook), I get to luxuriate in the fantasy that I came up with something original. Sometimes ignorance really is pretty blissful J.

But this isn’t really the main thing I wanted to write to you about today. Rather, I’ve been obsessing about the word “remembering.” What with the 1-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, Memorial Day, and the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, I’ve not been able to get the idea of “re-membering” out of my head.

As is my wont, I went to the dictionary to see about the origins of “remember” and unfortunately was under-whelmed:

“Middle English: from Old French remembrer, from late Latin rememorari ‘call to mind’, from re- (expressing intensive force) + Latin memor ‘mindful’.”

Yes, remembering is the act of calling something to mind or once again (re) being mindful (conscious) of it. When we remember to pick up milk on the way home or we remember someone’s name after an introduction we are calling those bits of information to mind, for sure.

I have been pondering a different twist, however, which is the idea of reaching back or out (or both) to pull in those who’ve been lost, whether due to the fogginess of time or due to the deliberate efforts of oppressive regimes to obscure stories that don’t fit their narratives. It’s the idea of bringing those stories, those people back into the fold of community, as it were, or “re-membering.” 

In this take on the word, the idea is that we’re intentionally calling to mind those who’ve been lost or shunned and pulling everyone into the story to make it whole. That’s not to say that a person standing at X point in time/place who is attempting to do such re-membering can possibly ever do all community members’ lives justice, but I still think there’s something important about the attempt. And if lots of us get together and swap stories and listen as non-defensively as we possibly can to those stories, we might make a go of “re-membering” us all in ways that could get us off the hamster wheel of the cycles of suppression about oppression that have kept us trapped.

Laura came across a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article yesterday on Twitter about how storytelling (compared with engaging in interactive riddles) does a fantastic job of decreasing cortisol and increasing oxytocin (like by almost unbelievable degrees) among children who are in ICU hospital settings. It’s very cool.

I know what I’m suggesting is different in that I think we need to tell and hear our true stories, many of which are not likely to lower cortisol, in order to re-member our democracy. The fictionalized accounts of our history, the wholesale erasure of huge swaths of our experience has propped up White supremacy and the patriarchy far too long and it’s about time we put aside those lies and re-learn who we have been so we can live into who we can be.

May we be safe to tell our stories.
May we be willing to tell and hear stories that shake up the status quo.
May we be strong and bold in our story telling.
May we accept that we can’t move forward if we remain hobbled by lies about the past.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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