News flash



Climate Change & Climate Science
Diane Shisk &
Janet Kabue
January 20 & 21

Working on Being USers

Beth Bannister (an Area Reference Person in central New York State, USA) recently led a fabulous Regional workshop on being USers. Beth built on last year’s ground-breaking workshop led by Jo Saunders, Seán Ruth, and Olivia Vincenti and on her own thinking about discharging oppressor material [distress].

Beth pointed out that those of us who have been doing this work rarely write to the RC lists about how we are working and what we are learning. She asked us to please write more so we can learn from and inspire each other.

Here are four ways I have enjoyed working in my own Co-Counseling sessions and counseling others in my Area. I hope it inspires others to write, too.

  1. Claiming a U.S. identity. Working on claiming the U.S. identity has seemed key for everyone. Doing so requires us to overcome defensiveness, powerlessness, and the distress recording that says the “real oppressors” are “other people” or “those in power,” not those like us!

Some people I’ve counseled loved being an “American” when they were young but became disillusioned later. Others—particularly people targeted by racism as well as Jews, Queer folks, and so on—have never felt like a “true American.”

But all of us have noticed how this material has left us feeling like we’ve “managed to escape” the oppressor material simply by rejecting the identity. In fact, it has left us rehearsing recordings of victimization and powerlessness. It has also gotten in the way of our building relationships with others, especially people with more conservative political views who often more easily claim the identity of “American.”

We’ve worked on (a) enthusiastically taking the direction, “I’m an American,” and (b) sharing our early memories (at home, in school, from watching television and movies, from reading books, and so on) about being “American.” Using “American” rather than “USer” has helped us discharge more, as that was the term used in our childhoods.

  1. Working on our heritage, including what was gained and/or lost when our ancestors came to this country. As an Ashkenazi Jew, I have been working a lot on being part of an Indigenous West Asian people and the two thousand years of exile; loss of home and language; disconnection from land, place, and people; pressures to assimilate; and so on. The more I work on this, the more I can discharge toward this country fully being mine (with all the good and bad that brings).
  2. Coming up with [thinking of] a plan for “taking charge of our country” (while being pleased with ourselves at the same time). Two years ago, before the U.S. presidential election, an Israeli Co-Counselor asked me what my plan was for taking charge of the direction of my country. I was stunned. I live in a small town, far from the “seats of power.” But he expected me to have a plan, and he was obviously correct. I have had many sessions on his question. So far, I still have only the smallest glimmer of what my plan would be, but I continue to discharge there.

More recently, a Co-Counselor in my Area who has Native American heritage told me that RC classes and workshops are often structured by patterns of colonization. I asked her if she was willing to help me figure out how to “decolonize” our Area. She agreed. To my surprise, her first direction to me was to be pleased with what I have already figured out. Again, I was stunned because I was so “ready to get to work.” But I have taken her direction. It helps me avoid the oppressor recordings of trying to immediately figure out the “ten next steps” to “fix things” or “fix myself.” (Not surprisingly, it is the same direction Dvora Slavin has been putting out to white people in our work on eliminating white racism.)

  1. Building relationships with people in the rest of the world, including learning languages other than English. We already know that working to end oppression goes better when we build close relationships across separations. It is always powerful to fall in love with people, learn about their lives, and have them as allies in working on being a USer.

Zoom workshops have been a big help in this regard. In the past year and a half, I have also had the chance to teach RC in two countries in Central Asia that didn’t yet have RC Communities.

Deciding to learn to speak the language of those countries has been a fast track to discharging both oppressor material and the early discouragement installed on language learning that can keep us separate from people elsewhere. I still frequently make mistakes by assuming I know things that I don’t. But I’m much better at remembering to start by asking people to tell me about what things are like for them related to the RC topics I’m teaching.

I am so glad we USers are increasingly taking on this work for ourselves and our own re-emergence. And I so appreciate our allies outside the United States who have pushed, encouraged, led, and pointed us in useful directions.

Margo Hittleman

Lansing, New York, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail 
discussion list for USA political issues

(Present Time 208, July 2022)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00