Thinking about the discourse between spiritualists and victims of harm
Thinking about accountability and prison abolition
Thinking about how white supremacy tells us people are disposable
That they–that we, don’t matter
Thinking about “don’t speak ill of the dead”
Thinking about “honor your ancestors”
Thinking about what else is possible beyond prisons, cages, and borders
Thinking about abusers who refuse to take accountability
Thinking about where that leaves us when we die
Thinking about how death is possible for the living
Thinking about how redemption is possible for the dead
Thinking about, what the fuck even is Salvation, anyway?
Thinking about binaries and how exhausting it is to think of these two things as mutually exclusive to each other
Thinking about how many of us are dissociating because cognitive dissonance is hell on earth
Thinking about the waging of war and how it lives in the body
Thinking about how rage turned inwards is depression
Thinking about the will to live and the will to die
Thinking about the sleep of death and the dreams that come from dying
Thinking about regret
Thinking about when an abuser becomes an ancestor
Thinking about where the guilt goes in the afterlife
Thinking about hell
Thinking about eternal suffering
Thinking about conversations of the reconciliation that is possible between an abusive ancestor and those they’ve abused
Thinking about who the hell said this shit was tied to the land of the living
This poem is a birthing after months of sitting in grief circles and bible studies and with the ancestors.This poem is short but holds so many wrestlings. It holds the wrestling between me and my daddy, now an ancestor, who I could never come out to while he walked this earth. It holds the waiting for my biological father’s passing to reconcile the ways in which he harmed me and my mother and my sister, the ways in which he abandoned and neglected us. It holds the wrestlings of iconizing Kobe Bryant after his death while also naming and recognizing him as the sexual predator he was. It holds the wrestlings of what happens in the afterlife, blending theologies of indigeneity and christianity.
Redemption is a consistent theme in biblical texts, as well as in canonized literature from Hamlet to The Kite Runner and it is something I often wrestle with. Growing up Catholic I was taught some Hail Marys and Our Fathers were the only thing standing between me and Redemption, and in order to achieve Salvation I had to be redeemed in the eyes of God. This conflation between guilt and redemption began to feel disingenuous the more I questioned it, eventually becoming unsustainable for me and I began to seek out a theology in which I could achieve redemption and salvation without the guilt and self-loathing. But as my theology expanded, I began to wonder if there are things that can be reconciled and put to death only when the doer has died. There are so many apologies I’m owed, and yet I recognize some people’s limitations on this earthly plane. Some people just do not know how to take accountability or responsibility. I theorize that they too were brought up in belief systems that told them they should feel ashamed for the harm they’ve caused.
Which leads me to my thoughts on harm: that it is an inevitability. We as humans are fated to be harmed, and to cause harm. I used to think that meant that we were fated to suffer, and that our suffering was made beautiful by its universality, the one Great Unifier. As I flush out this theology of suffering, I began to recognize our capacity for grace–Wesleyan Grace, to be exact. What would it look like for communities to engage with each other on the inherent belief that harm is an inevitability rather than an opportunity to discard a community member? Where does the guilt go when we approach relationships with a harm reduction lens rather than a binaried “good or bad,” “in or out” model? What becomes possible when we reduce the shame and guilt,and begin to recognize our capacity to forgive both others and ourselves?
I am tired of shame tearing people apart. I also recognize the privilege that it is to do this work. These privileges are something my daddy and my biological father will never have access to. As an abolitionist, I want to believe that redemption is possible in the afterlife. I have gotten to reconcile some things with my daddy in the afterlife that were never possible in this lifetime. And because we are able to wrestle through that harm together, I am able to honor him and his life so much more freely. I think the pathway to liberation is tied up in these wrestlings, asking us to go deep within ourselves, and challenge what is possible in our relationships. The more I take accountability for the harm I’ve caused, the more I hold other people accountable, the more I can envision what is possible in the age of Aquarius. As empires crumble, we get to decide who we want to be. That work starts now, starts with us, starts with how we treat ourselves and those who’ve harmed us. We cannot control our abusers. But we can control what we choose to do with that pain. I choose to name it, sit with it, honor it, then set it free. We are not obligated to forgive anyone–not even ourselves. But we are invited to consider what is possible for us if we do. The collective re-imagining is full of possibility, we get to re-define what community means, and that hard work is heart work. We as individuals make up the collective, and as we feel called towards a timeline of ease, we can see the possibility of living in a world where harm is inevitable, but suffering is not.
Eva Espinoza is a story-teller and an elder-in-training. She is a survivor who shares their story as a reclamation, a medicine for liberation, an arc towards freedom. As a young millennial bruja who was raised Catholic and did a brief stint at a United Methodist Seminary, they see themselves as a bridge between the old and the new. As a doula, she understands the cyclical nature of life and death, and believes that this “New Age Spirituality” is really just a remembrance project. Eva exists at the intersections of multiple identities and straddles these identities like a shapeshifter allowed access to multiple worlds seemingly in conflict with one another. Eva is a first-generation queer, non-binary, Latinx, fat, brown, poor, chronically ill, neurodivergent poet and writer. She writes through the lens of their lived experiences and offers her writing up as medicine as she wrestles with identity, theology, trauma, embodying liberation, and how to pray ethically to and for the ancestors. They were born and raised in Tongva lands in so-called Norwalk, California and currently reside in occupied Pawtucket lands in the so-called greater Boston area. Eva is a by-product of community and of multiple stories of survival and resilience intersecting; she strives to tell these stories honorably while also honoring the medicine of truth-telling as a tool for abolition and accountability.