Hospitality can, at times, be a complex thing. It does lie at the core of our tradition. With the knowledge that we have in the 21st century of interrelationships of all life I think we should be able to recognize that we are guests on this planet ourselves. We are part of it but we have a limited time span. We should strive to understand better these interrelationships and do the deeds that each of us will feel compelled to do (which can obviously very widely). Maybe we will find we have certain geasa.
But on a more microcosmic level what about with our fellow humans? If we live in a republic, then surely that includes our fellow citizens (a word that seems kind of radical at this point in time, when powerful forces constantly insist we are simply consumers, which implies we are not in relationship at all).
Media forces, power forces in this particular republic (US) work to obscure for white people (as I am socially constructed) that many Americans experience life with much less privilege. The last few years images and incidents of police violence, what are ‘extra-judicial killings’ of young men of color, especially African-American and Latino, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Mike Brown, and the recent slaughter of Walter Scott, have broken through carefully attended facade for some. And yet for millions of whites complacency remains intact.
A month ago I found myself at an event where extended family, people I would consider rather distant relatives from geographically far off places (Midwest, South) had all assembled to celebrate my mother’s life. I found myself in the awkward situation of to some degree being a guest, as two of these relatives wanted us to stay in their place (which I was not comfortable doing in the first place). One morning I found myself having a bit of breakfast and coffee at the dining table with some of these relatives whom I don’t actually know and obviously perceived the world very very differently than I do. Suddenly disturbing remarks were being made. The key word was Ferguson. Outwardly, I stayed calm (something I wouldn’t have managed when I was young) and challenged the racist statements. I wish I’d done more like delivered a coherent lecture. At any rate the dictates of truth and justice overrode any specific law of immediate hospitality. I know some people won’t say anything in such situations; I think it is crucial that we do so. I think of the Druid revival phrase ‘The Truth Against the World’, in this case the world shaped by institutional racism. If truth is in our hearts, it must find fulfillment in our tongues (as the fianna Caílte once told St. Patrick).