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Angels needed in America

My cousin knits socks of different sizes and shapes from multi-colored strands, and the analogy to my country and its varied needs stares me in the face
Hands knitting. (iStock)
Hands knitting. (iStock)

Days away from the election that will decide the fate of a nation, my cousin in Wisconsin knits two socks of different size. These socks will go to a friend who cannot find ones to fit because they have one larger foot and one smaller in a life where growing limbs came in a two-sized spina bifida package. Blending the strands of multi-colored fine merino and silk wool, not an easy task for my cousin whose hands ache from her own arthritis and fibromyalgia. The fibers, a mix of tan, brown and cream run through her fingers as I speak with her on the phone from my home in the woods of Connecticut, leaves of similar colors falling to the ground amid softly falling rain.

I have been speaking to my cousin these past weeks about the fears that cause me to call strangers asking them about their plans to vote, early, absentee or in person. My fears that have me waking in the middle of the night to write this have been triggered of late watching images of white people with guns stalking those whose skin of different color brought their ancestors as slaves to serve on land taken from Native Americans who walked it for thousands of years before the white men and women came.

My cousin in Wisconsin tells me of other fears, as she considers what it will take to cast her absentee ballot in the local lockbox. That’s because after a recent shooting in her town, angry people demanding justice or police firing rubber bullets and pepper spray are among the hazards one could face as you drive downtown.

Somewhere I know we have to find a way to blend the crazy colors of this American life we have inherited. On a recent balmy evening, I sat through two hours of a Zoom debate between people holding different positions on who to vote for. Mounted by Braver Angels, the organization whose stated intention for the coming weeks is to “Hold America Together.” They train people to listen to each other and tolerate disagreement. Watching the passion and eloquence of speakers impressed me. And seeing how people “stayed in the room” and found friends in the opposition, if not common ground, impressed me even more.

My belief is coming into clearer focus. I live as a Jew in an America that did not always welcome my people. Some in my family were abandoned to die in Eastern Europe when immigration doors were shut to those perceived as different, much as they are today. Today, I live as a person whose life has been shaped by “White Advantage.” Housing provided and subsidized. Education insured. I can fit in easily to the weave of my mainly white suburb in Connecticut. And I feel uneasy. Very uneasy.

I can no longer mask what I feel. Too much multi-colored thread in my hands which yearn to do something and can do something, even if the stitches I make are not perfect, some even requiring repair. Chief among my tools, learning to “use my words” in addition to my limbs that can “walk the talk” towards something that looks like a way out, a better way.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that “the verb knit has been used in English since about 1000 AD. It derived from the Old English word cnyttan, which means “to tie in a knot,” which was its first meaning. By the 1300s, the verb referred to tying string or thread into a net, and in 1530, we have our first use of knit to refer to the creation of an object by weaving together a series of interlocking loops using two needles.”

I find myself and suspect many of us feel we live in quite a painful knot here in 2020 America which we desperately need to unravel if we hope to avoid dissembling into chaos. I love the image of a net that, even at this late date, could catch and hold us together. I think of my cousin knitting peacefully, her socks of different size and shape. Weaving together strands that merge a multi-colored product, one that could fit us all. I imagine an angel sitting on my cousin’s shoulder in Wisconsin, guiding her fingers to stitch in miraculous ways only she can see. I dream of the day her socks arrive at the home of her friend. I imagine the smile on his face and the smile on hers. I imagine angels. Watching.

Photo: Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco by Judy Gotlieb

NOTE: This post also appears on Medium

About the Author
Neal H. Brodsky, a family and somatic psychotherapist, writer and activist lives in Connecticut near NYC. A contributor to the upcoming Routledge International Handbook of Play, Therapeutic Play & Play Therapy, he practices online during Covid-19 and is affiliated with the Israel Center for Self Transformation. Originally trained as a script writer, his career includes ten years writing grants supporting families in subsidized housing, more than a decade in marketing positions at major U.S. public television stations and programming management at HBO. Neal curates One Jewish Family: News of Ethiopian Jews social media feeds on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. He also writes for publication in The Forward and Medium.
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