Stranger In My Land

Stranger In My Land

written by: Mark Janssen
by: Mark Janssen

Since the 1600's my ancestors have been strangers entering what is now the United States. Once here all of them moved westward until they found themselves in the middle of the country. The original settlers were from Great Britain. My reading of American history is that, regardless of what the locals thought of the foreigners settling on their ancestral lands, there were no signs saying "English Keep Out". By the time the rest of my ancestors arrived from Northwestern Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century there was a great deal of sentiment abroad in the United States completely in favor of them staying on their ships and returning to Europe. By then there were signs in shop windows and notices in newspapers that people who were of certain religions or from certain countries in Europe were not wanted.

Hence, my ancestors ended up in rural America where, for the most part, it didn't matter. At the very least, I never heard that any of them were beaten or murdered in riots of race or religion.

The first time I left home was when I was fourteen. The town where I was born and raised was left behind as my family moved to another, very different, town. For a long time I didn't pay attention to all of the moves between fourteen and forty. Gradually I became aware of the fact that I wasn't moving so much as being moved. It was not entirely my will that moved me from region to region in these United States. It was that I was being told to go.

What I had come to do in one place was done. It was as complete as it was supposed to be by my hand. It was somebody else's job to take that particular piece of work along to the next place in the puzzle.

Just as my ancestors found they were not always welcome in different parts of America, I have found the same. Typically, when I move from one region to another I have the wrong accent, background, class or religion. Being a white middle-class male does not always smooth the way, especially when moving from the North to the Deep South.

Racism, sexism, classism, etc., are all alive and well in America. It is quite the least of crimes to be discriminated against on those grounds. My experience is that it is considered the worst of manners to tell the locals how badly they are behaving and to snap out of it.

But, that is just my experience.

We Americans have an ill-mannered habit of discriminating against people who do not look, act or sound like us. If only we were alone! The sad fact is that the word "humans" could easily be substituted for the word "Americans".

The happy fact is that we hold within us each and every one the capacity to overcome that prejudice. It's hard, very hard, and it means we have to work at it every day. Whether or not we choose to move our lives forward is a personal choice. My own experience in the doing and in seeing what others do are the positive results. It may be that we have to consciously choose to have open, loving souls several time a day. Or even several times a minute.

Deep within us is the uncompromising spark of life. It is a gift from the Creator. Whatever we call it—soul, spark, conscious—it is that thing within us which we cannot physically touch, yet touches every aspect of our beings at all times.

That spark, that spirited conscious, is the ocular oracle to and from our innermost being. The soul speaks inwardly to its Creator and to itself. It moves outward to inform the rest our being what we need to know to be a good human.

It's all rather daring. It is far easier to put up signs in windows which say "Germans Need Not Apply".

We all know what it is like to be discriminated against because we have red hair or we don't, our eyes are violet or they are green. However, if we turn all of that on its head and live boldly, daring to allow the still, silent voice within to speak to us, we will learn something very new.

We will learn to discriminate against our discrimination. We will learn that what was the gut reflex is more likely spiritual reflux. What we learned, what we accepted as our own, will come to light as being corrupt. Those soul murdering ideas we once accepted go against who we discover we really are.

It has surprised me, caught me off my guard so many times to discover that something I thought was just the way things were, something I was taught in childhood, is neither true nor necessary. I don't need to follow one path over another because that's how it's always been.

I can follow the right path because it is the right path.

written by: Mark Janssen

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