This post is mostly as a shout out to other Sikhs involved in activism, and those who are not, but may want to reconsider . . .
Amanda, my partner, and I had been dating for a few months. My cousin asked me where we had met. I told him that it was at an activist meeting. I knew going into detail would elicit ridicule. He chortled back, "What? Activist for what?" Derision as veiled as a tiger tooth about to bleed a deer. If I told him it was a meeting of local Pro-Palestinian Rights group, a terminal argument would be set ablaze and I would go blue in the face trying to make someone think it was worth the time.
In retrospect, I wonder . .. Perhaps had I taken a different approach from the beginning. It's just that these days, there are not so many Sikhs that I know who really think much about activism or social justice. Forgive the generality, I know about those wonderful groups out there, mostly students and young professionals, engaged in social and political struggles to ensure not just the rights of Sikhs but others as well. Maybe its just the older generation, my parent's generation, some of whom lived through Partition, and almost all of whom were touched by 1984. Maybe they want to forget, and shield themselves from the fact that when Sikhs enter history, its often bloody and tearful. I don't know.
One thing I do know, Sikhi impels me to act. Our history of political and social struggles mirrors our own internal struggle. Spirituality in Sikhi is not some exoteric 'given,' it must to worked for, cultivated. In working to better ourselves, we must recognize the rights of others to pursue peace and growth and happiness, and this leads to abundant compassion. The martial concept in Sikhism may have sprung from self-preservation, but reached perhaps its spiritual zenith with the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. He died bravely, with warrior spirit, so that others - non-Sikhs - could know freedom. If Miri-Piri means anything, it means this; going to battle and putting one's own life in the breach, to serve the compassion that flows from spirit. It means knowing that protecting others is self-preservation, as only such a sacrifice can truly honor the teachings of Sikhi and the lives of our Gurus.
One can turn in just about any direction, there is work to be done. Find what resonates with you, whether it is down the street or across the sea. Sewa should be more than helping to serve a meal once a week (though its always good to do that too!). Hopefully, we can recognize that the our own struggle as Sikhs mimics the struggle of so many others on this planet, and in this way, find a path forward together.