A Month without Enemies

April 20th, 2010

As you may remember, I’ve committed to having no enemies this month, and a number of you have written to say that you are joining me in this experiment.

I have to say that it’s not been so easy. Maybe it’s because it is April, but I doubt it. When Governor of Virginia Robert McDonnell announced that April would be “Confederate History Month” without mentioning slavery, saying that it was not a significant part of Virginia’s history, I found myself working hard to remind myself that I have no enemies. It was similarly difficult when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law an anti-immigrant bill (SB 1070) legalizing racial profiling against those whom police suspect to be immigrants, making it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requiring local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The Tea Party folks aren’t making it easy either. Perhaps I should have waited to experiment with this until May or June…

I had a good moment when, after breakfast with a friend one morning, I stopped at a table of police officers and thanked them for their service. They looked up at me with surprise, and then with gratitude for being acknowledged. I felt quite proud of myself until my friend looked at me with outrage – clearly upset that I was consorting with the “enemy.” Then it wasn’t so easy again.

As hard as it’s been for those trying to get through European airspace lately, I’ve been relieved that I didn’t have to go looking for someone to blame. I can’t be enemies with a volcano, or an earthquake, even as they make life hard or impossible for a lot of people. Why is it easier to be neutral about a tornado than about Sarah Palin? I have the same degree of control over both of them.

What does it mean for a progressive, 21st century leader to refuse to have enemies? Do we risk being perceived as “sell-outs” or not being “down with the cause?” It is challenging to attempt this in an either/or bad/good right/wrong context. In a binary system there are only two choices, and they’re very limiting. We need some other options.

Jelaluddin Rumi wrote: “Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field – I’ll meet you there.” It is easy to see how we might do a field romp with folks who look like or think like ourselves. Less easy to imagine how a romp with Governor McDonnell might go.

As difficult as it might be, the only way out of the mess we’re in is through connection and a refusal to “other” someone or to allow ourselves to be “othered”. Like it or not, McDonnell, Pearce and Palin are an integral part of the human community. They are our neighbors.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t troubled by living and working in concert with volcanoes or Tea Parties most days. Most of us are surrounded by people we admire and respect. Even then, having no enemies can sometimes be difficult. The progressive left is famous for tearing apart rather than lifting up our leaders, for looking for enemies among our own ranks, and our movements suffer as a result.

I invite you to do a scan of your kinship networks. Is there an “enemy” lurking with whom it might be time to make peace? A relationship that could use some tending and mending?

What might you do to repair that relationship?

What could change if you did so?

How might it help your organization, family, community or movement?

I’d love to hear how it’s going for those who are experimenting with me in this month of no enemies. If we can do it for a month, perhaps we can do it for a year. And if a year, then perhaps for a lifetime.

Imagine. Imagine a lifetime in a world without enemies.

From my heart to yours,


April 2010

New Fellowship for National Security Reform

Rockwood Leadership Institute is proud to announce the 2010 class of leaders chosen to participate in the national Fellowship for Human Rights and National Security Reform Leaders.

The Rockwood Fellowship focuses on leaders whose organizations are grantees of Proteus Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies, and Open Society Institute, and who are engaged in work to restore due process, end arbitrary detention and the use of torture, reform surveillance laws, reduce racial, ethnic, and religious profiling and ensure government accountability on national security policy.

Through the Fellowship, leaders gain tools to increase their personal and organizational effectiveness, and to strengthen relationships within the field of human rights and national security reform. Over the course of six months, Fellows participate in the Art of Collaborative Leadership, the Advanced Art of Leadership, and receive coaching and leadership support.

Fellow bios can be found here.

For more information about Rockwood Fellowships, click here.

Take your Leadership to the Next Level

Increase your personal sustainability and deepen your commitment to leadership at the Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action September 19-22, 2010 in New York.
Apply here.
What are past participants saying about the experience? Read more>>

"The Advanced Art of Leadership helped validate the leadership commitment I made to myself and the progressive community at large."
– Gregory Cendana, United States Student Association

"The Advanced Art of Leadership shifted my understanding of what it means to be a responsible leader. I now understand that being a responsible leader requires standing up for myself, owning my power, and taking care of myself. Art of Leadership helped me confront and see how not taking care of myself was impacting those around me. Advanced Art nurtured that understanding, gave me the space to explore my shortcomings in a profound and positive space."
- Daniela Simunovic, Center for Race, Policy and the Environment

"The Advanced Art of Leadership changed my life irrevocably - I now see how I must live my life in balance and integrity in order to truly lead from a place of love and compassion. I see myself better than ever now, which will forever change how I engage and interact with others in my professional and personal life."
– Jayeesha Dutta, Mind Power Collective

The Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action was designed exclusively for Rockwood alumnae/i to take the work you began at the Art of Leadership to the next level. Join us
September 19-22, 2010 at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, NY
Apply here.

Rockwood welcomes Carmen Iñiguez and
Sharon Price to our team!

Carmen joins us as the Program & Outreach Manager, leading the Fellowship for California Leaders of Color and managing enrollment for the Art of Leadership. As our new Fellowship Manager, Sharon will coordinate the Fellowship for Human Rights and National Security Reform and other emerging fellowships and special trainings at RLI.

Carmen brings eighteen years of experience working with California communities, including leading a statewide education campaign with Californians for Justice. Carmen shared of her experience at the Art of Leadership, “[it] was a transformative marker in my development as a social & racial justice leader.”

Sharon worked with Rare since 2002, developing a dynamic network for environmental leaders around the world to share conservation tools and stories. When she first saw the job posting, she “knew [working at Rockwood] was the perfect match for my skills in nonprofit program management and network development, as well as for [her] personal interests.”

Both are excited to build relationships with the larger Rockwood community.