Movable // If
“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.”
- From Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I have always had the privilege to carefully select where I plant my roots and whom I call my “neighbor.” This seems on the surface a modest privilege, but the luxury it engenders is ineffable. To change one’s environment is, after all, a measure of control over one’s world, and while my family was never exorbitantly wealthy, we never found ourselves lacking in options either.
To move is bodily and assertive. It is to claim the legitimacy of one’s being somewhere. It is a recognition of the dignity of the mover, and in unproblematic situations of moving with, it is a loving collaboration of spirit and space. It is a reconciling of a person with their physicality, expressed in the performance of limbs and digits and steps. Moving is a joyful “not.” I am not stationary. I am not restricted. I am not under the thumb or the boot of another, and I deserve not to be.
To move can be to hate, too. Unbridled assertiveness becomes domination. It becomes possessiveness and exploitation and avarice. Moving into or over or against displaces and profanes spirit and space. It drains the land and oppresses its people. It crosses sacred boundaries and desecrates itself. It assaults.
Across the spectrum of movement we build and tear down community. We may decide to remain with those we love, to work with what is around us and move with it. We may choose, as Christ did, to leave the shore of comfort and wade into the waters of malice, seeking to redirect their antihuman currents and calm their turmoil. This is terrifying business and in it he found isolation and torture. And so the moral agent finds in front of them the toughest of balancing acts—the preservation, celebration, and coordination of the movement of peace with the difficult, transformative turn into the company of one’s enemies. Gazing nervously at the seas of conflict, I have always had the option to watch them churn before jumping in.
But she was incarcerated. And she was assaulted. And she couldn’t move.
And you tell me about her resolute surging through an enemy land, her longing to have her home back from those who asserted their dominion over it. And her movements were watched. Her enemies ripped her away from those she chose and inserted her into nothingness. And in the blackness they permanently changed how she could and could not move.
It took too long to get the unknowers like me moving. It took convincing and protesting and lawyering. It took the mobilization of masses to reinstate one woman’s subjecthood, to raise her from the walked-on ground to which they tried to reduce her. In my hearing I hope I might have been one of the moved if I were there, that my response might have been just and collaborative and disruptive. But I know my immobility now, and I have my fears.
You tell me with pride her unbrokenness, her refusal to be steered where they wanted her or stalled when they attacked her. You tell me of the wheels she spun and the projects she initiated. And in your telling, in her being, I feel something profound emanate into our shared space, a charge and a boon from that which flows throughout in peace and dignity.