“Honorary virgins.” The phrase has stuck in my head ever since I read it last Friday in The New York Times. It had to do with Republicans who will probably be swept into office today. “The fact that they aren’t incumbents is a technicality,” Russell Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers explains. “They still have a lot of political experience.”
The quote caught my attention because I’m always on the lookout for good virgin references. My own book is Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe. But I set this quote aside at the time, because frankly, I just didn’t want to get into the whole political scene. That’s one of the reasons we moved four years ago to Mexico, where the Virgin of Guadalupe is everywhere. We were just tired of the fight – tired of the polarization, the rhetoric, and the battles being waged on so many levels and on so many fronts. Yes, we voted for Obama, and No, we didn’t expect the world to be transformed by his presence. We did expect to see a few new faces in the administration on the financial front. That didn’t happen. But I’m still grateful he was elected. It was transformational for the country in the mere fact that it was done. It was proof that a majority of Americans are looking for a new way of doing things. Obama, if he is not re-elected in 2012, will be able to play with more freedom on the world stage than he could as President of the United States. Like Jimmy Carter, the presidency may serve for him as a springboard to greater accomplishments. It may be one of many accomplishments for which Obama will be known.
“Being known” is what draws me to that phrase “honorary virgin.” There is, as I’m sure we’re all aware, a Biblical sense of that word, as in “And Adam knew Eve, and she conceived.” Carnal knowledge is what we associate with losing virginity. But that’s the kind of virginity that deals in technicalities. The concept of virginity that I’ve been touting is that of the original meaning of the Greek word translated virgin. That would be someone who was “one-in-herself,” a complete entity, undefined by any relationship other than the original one she had with her Creator. It was this kind of virginity that Mary expressed when she said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord!” She didn’t say, “What are Mom and Dad going to think?” or “How is this going to play down at the temple?”
I’d like to reclaim my own virginity. I don’t want to be known as somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, or somebody’s mother. I don’t want to be solely identified by any carnal relationship, real or metaphorical. And that includes, in particular, the body politic. Don’t shove me in a corner and stick me with the name of Republican, Democrat, or anything else. Looking at the options offered, I feel my mental knees slamming shut. You don’t know me! You can’t know me!
I grew up attending church, so I’m hardwired with Bible language. The Sunday service I went to always ended with the same verse from First John, which included these words: “Therefore the world knoweth us not.” It came on the heels of words by Mary Baker Eddy that said that right here and now, we were not material beings, but spiritual. I had a real Aha! moment a few years back when I read about the practice of using acronyms for legal charges in Victorian England. So when someone was arrested for engaging the services of a prostitute we do not find the entire entry, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” but just the first letter of each word. “Aha!” I saw. “It’s only when I lose sight of who I really am, and identify myself as some body, or with some “body” of thought, that I get, ahem, known.”
The people of the United States, the citizens who pay taxes and have seen Wall Street and the banks bailed out, have been well and truly known. Many would indeed use that f-word. And still we get promises that So-and-so running for such-and-such knows how we feel. In all due respect you don’t know how I feel. But that’s not to say I don’t want to be known. I just want it to be more. I’ve voted, but I honestly don’t think that the seeds of what I as a person, or we as a nation will become lie in what goes on in Washington. We’ve been there, done that, and done it over and over again. Right now we’ve been used, violated, and left on the side of the road. No mortal hero, congressional, senatorial or presidential is going to fix that.
One manner of dealing with trauma, the most common, is dissociation. People seal themselves off, isolate the hurt, find ways, consciously or not, to avoid thinking about it. That’s another reason I left the country. But being broken can also mean being broken open. I refer with tongue in cheek to “My Inner Guadalupe.” It’s a euphemism, inspired by my new surroundings, for that open place inside of each of us that’s ready for new things. I’m wondering if we’re ready as Americans for that “new thing.” Are we ready, rather than being the all-knowledgeable, all knowing, to open up and be, well, virginal?
Open up to whom? Or should I ask, to what? I find myself tip-toeing around God-talk these days — even another reason for my geographical distance. There are some subjects that are too intimate, too tender for those who are traumatized to articulate, or hash over on talk radio or television in soundbites. That’s why the Psalms have served humanity over millennia. They give us words to express our longings, a means to voice our pain. Confronted with public noise, recorded phone messages, a barrage of advertising and rhetoric, I whisper ancient words. “Behold, you want truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom.” Modern words from The Message put it this way: “What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.”
Maybe what we need is not a new Congress or even a new President. Maybe what we need is a midwife.