Over the past five weeks, people have gathered every week, a couple of hundred at a time, to talk — about whether “strong women” are a threat or a blessing to us; about immigrants and refugees and how we go about living gratefully and graciously alongside them — and, these days, protecting them — as our neighbors; about racism as a community curse and what we can do about it; about our LGBTQ community and why queer folks generate such fear; and about religious bigotry — especially against Jews and Muslims in our midst and what we can do about it. (We ought also talk about why Pagans are often subjected to harassment here in western NC and throughout rural America — and in time we will.)
These topics are the first five in an 8-session series being sponsored in Brevard NC by our local NAACP in cooperation with several Christian congregations (protestant and catholic, white, black, Latino).
What’s been remarkable has been the outpouring of interest and energy by folks of different ages, men and women, eager to listen, willing to speak up, and committed to doing whatever needs to be done not only to resist Trump but to re-make our communities and, by extension, our country in a strong spirit of mutuality.
Genuine mutuality involves listening to others, speaking up ourselves, and reaching out to connect with those who may be quite unlike us in any number of ways — including politically — and an openness on each person’s part to being touched and changed in ways that may surprise us.
Be clear that building such relationships doesn’t mean giving up on our values or basic commitments to justice and fairness for all. But it probably does mean coming to new understandings of who we are, what we believe and value, and why; and of coming to new understandings of the “others,” whoever they are.
We NAACP folks are hoping to help build a second series next fall, one to be shaped with those “others.” How this can happen, or if it can, remains to be seen. But it’s a real hope that many of us progressives share here in the NC mountains.