Racism at the heart of our democracy

Do you realize the horror and pity and evil embedded in the countless shootings of black Americans by law enforcement officers throughout our nation? Folks, this isn’t about “bad people,” for the most part, either those who are shot or the shooters.
 
This is about deep systemic white racism woven into the fabric of our nation and our collective consciousness. Racism is in the air we ALL breathe, red and yellow, black and white.
 
The fundamental problem with the acquittals of all these police is NOT the exoneration of the shooters but rather the implicit exoneration of the RACISM — WHITE SUPREMACY — that lingers at the heart of our democracy.
None of us, no one of any race or ethnicity, stands above or outside of racism.  We really are all in this together, folks.  As Peter Seeger sang, “We may have come here in different boats, but we’re in the same boat now.”
A question for us all:  What is each of our roles, what can each of us do in our context, in helping transform our communities into more fundamentally liberated anti-racist spaces of justicelove, mutuality, healing, and compassion?

Hang on!

For anyone with a passion for social justice, the returns coming in from GA, where Karen Handel holds a significant lead over Jon Ossoff, coupled with the sneak attack on health-care being orchestrated by about a dozen Senators (mostly, if not entirely, white males) are not good news for the short run.

By “short run,” I mean right now and the next few months, maybe even years.

But hang on! my beloved sister-friend, Angela Solling of Australia would say, urging us not to give up or let our hope drain away.  There’s more to this journey than a “short run.”  It’s a long and winding road, as the Beatles sang.

For now, the GOP, led by their odd-fellow POTUS, is trying to rip apart Barack Obama’s legacy, I submit, partly because he was a progressive Democrat but also because he was a Black male who dared to win the Presidency of the United States, which is supposed to be a White country in which rich males (and a handful of “exceptional” women) rule.

Ugly things are happening in the short run: name-calling, bullying, and violence are on the rise, racism and sexism have been given winks and nods by Donald Trump and his wimpy followers. Many, many Black men and some Black women are being shot by law enforcement officers who continue to be acquitted because they say they feared for their lives — and, after all, in a racist society, Black people are scary.

In relation to women, Republicans are taking special aim at Planned Parenthood, historically the mother lode of organizations to support women through reproductive health challenges of many kinds. The Trump Administration hasn’t gotten around to stomping on LGBTQ people yet, but we can count on it, unless princess Ivanka shakes a little human compassion into the king.

In the meantime, immigrants and refugees, and climate and environmental protections have all been broadsided.  Surely there is more bad news to come — possibly the loss of health care for the poor alongside great reductions in taxes on the rich —  and more suffering for more people, our sister and brother humans and other creatures of all kinds.

This takes us into the larger world in which the only apparent connection Trump has made that gives him any pleasure is with the Saudi royal family who must remind him of his own.  The Saudis and over in Israel, Netanyahu, stand out as world leaders who seem to actually like Donald Trump.  But liking is not respecting.  We’ll see in months to come how leaders of the world actually regard a President who seldom means what he tweets, perhaps because he can’t remember what he meant by his latest tweet.

But there’s also the long run:

Assuming as I do that Robert Mueller and his team will unravel the Russian connection, we’ll learn eventually that the problem was, and is, not only about political collusion but also sleazy, profitable financial entanglements, the obvious obstruction of justice, and lie upon lie upon lie.  If the various Congressional committees reach similar or overlapping conclusions, as they well may, especially in the Senate, I expect Trump will be a one-term president, if not an impeached one.

And yet regardless of what may happen over the next few years to Trump, Pence, Ryan, Tillerson, et al, our country and the rest of the world are changing big time, for better or worse, depending on our perspectives and also on how seriously we take our interdependence with all people and creatures and our shared responsibility for helping weave these relational patterns in our work and faith and throughout our lives.

Here at home, the demographics are shifting and will mean that, regardless of recent events, within another generation or two, White people will no longer be in charge of the United States of America. America will not be “great again” in any sense that either Trump or his followers assume.  Thank God! This is good news for all of us, White people and all others too.  We can learn to celebrate this!

The ongoing bad news is that global capitalism will continue to increase the world’s poor, and  climate change will continue to wreak havoc for the earth, and especially for the poor. We cannot be silent in the presence of this Evil.

The world’s historically largest and most economically and doctrinally powerful religions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, among others — will be changing in numbers of adherents, teachings, and how they relate to the world near and far.  Modes of communication and transportation will be changing even faster than they have in the past several generations.  We can insist that religious teachings promote justice and peace; and that our ways of communicating and transport promote the most humane, compassionate, and cleanest energies.

No doubt  there will have been, and will continue to be, wars, god-forsaken wars in which everyone loses too much, always — wars and weaponry beyond our capacities to imagine in this moment, thank God.  We cannot be silent in response to such Evil.

So then, how is the long run not even worse than where we are now? Because where there is a long run, a tomorrow, we can hope, remembering with Sr. Renny Golden’s that “struggle is a name for hope.”

Our hope for the future, our ONLY hope, is in building  community, relationships with one another across difference and divisions; making connections with people and ideas we may never have imagined.  For it is literally true that the ONLY way our beloved planet earth and our human race and other species of creatures can survive and thrive is to learn how to live together in mutually interdependent ways.

The task before us — learning how to live together in radically mutual relation — is a spiritual as well as an economic, psychological, political, etc, task of many dimensions.  For those of us who ARE spiritual leaders — those with platforms like blogs and book writing; film-making, music-making, art-making; pastoral counseling opportunities; liturgical and educational talent — the time is NOW to be prophetic in our ministries and our lives.  The more of us, the better for all of us and for the whole created earth.

We can, and we must, resist injustice and oppression in the short run.  It’s what the Resistance to Trump is all about, a Resistance involving our working together to build community and movements, but not only in explicitly political efforts like the Ossuff campaign.  In everything we do, we need to be creating new images and languages and ways of communication than enhance our common good and our shared humanity,  new opportunities for work and play and sharing, new possibilities for food production and health care provision.

In these and so many ways, we shape the long run, and we become the hope of the world.

 

 

Do we really believe in our power to generate mutuality?

Heading off soon for a week’s vacation with family, I look forward to kayaking and birding, playing music and reading, lots of walking and biking, much sharing with loved ones, and pondering a lot in my heart — especially mulling over how on earth we can help each other bridge these damning divides that are devastating our society (and world) and diminishing all of us.

The following thoughts began to form this morning when I was hanging out with my horse Feather.  As I’ve written earlier, “the horse is the priest,” she who mediates the Sacred, the one who sparks our imagination and en-courages us.  So thank you, Feather, for encouraging me.

So much is going on around us in the world, and it’s not new, not really — wars  rage on, and global capitalism takes its death-dealing toll on humans and the rest of creation. Donald Trump is emblematic of the worst that global capitalism has to offer anyone, including his own supporters.  But there is more going on than Trump’s idiocy and greed.

In the context of capitalist greed, with Trump’s erratic behavior ever in the news, something new is emerging among Americans.  I’m thinking of a debilitating connection between (1) our deeply human proclivity to FEAR what we don’t understand; (2) our equally human tendency to GRASP onto whatever we imagine will protect us; and (3) our postmodern skepticism that anything is TRUE or anyone is trustworthy.  The new part of this link is the postmodern skepticism which is breeding cynicism toward every one, and every institution, that makes any truth claim, and contempt toward people who don’t think like us about the social and political conundrum in which we find ourselves.

Years ago, President Obama was criticized by his opponents for suggesting that fear was driving folks to cling to “God and guns.”  Politically savvy or not, Obama was right, and today we witness this same flight of many Americans into a self-serving, judgmental, fundamentalist Christianity and an equally fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment.

However, we progressives who tend to scorn our neighbors’ flights toward God and guns are taking flights of our own, are we not?  I mean, aren’t we dashing as fast as we can into communities of Resistance in which we can feel relatively safe and protected from the dangers unleashed upon us and others, historically and still today, by right-wing Christians and other fundamentalists, including white racists, anti-Semites, and male supremacists?

Of course we believe that “we” are right and “they” are wrong!  Many of us and our loved ones have scars to show for the damages done to our bodies and spirits by bad religion and gun violence.  In good faith, we progressives must not, and honestly cannot, back away from, or dilute, our values and strong beliefs — these are our spiritual core, the well springs of our lives.  From our values and core beliefs, there is no turning back.

And isn’t one of our most fundamental, core,  beliefs in the healing, liberating power of mutual relation? Making connections with others that call forth the best in who each of us is?

Here’s what I do believe:  In the Sacred Spirit that generates mutuality, we need to reach out to our siblings, our sisters and brothers whose views we oppose, and ask them to tell us who they are.  Not preach to us, Not lecture to us. Not try to convert us. We don’t need to be condescended to. We need to listen to, and hear, the personal stories of people with different values and beliefs, people who are willing to share with us.  And we need to share our own stories — not to convert, lecture, preach, or condescend.  Each of us — they and we — need to be given space and time to present ourselves, to show who we are.

We are all afraid. We are and they are.  Somehow we need to en-courage ourselves and others to speak honestly and respectfully of ourselves and others:  “To hear each other to speech,” in the words of feminist theologian Nelle Morton.

I think we can do it. We can start with just two or three gathered together, or ten or fifteen folks in a room talking around a table with food in our midst.  Or twenty or thirty of us sitting around a “fishbowl” of people of diverse beliefs, people willing to share their own stories as a springboard into a relational movement.

God help us.