Lovely words, from Emily Dickinson, words I do not believe right now, today, here, in these United States:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Right now, hope does ask something of me. Of us.
My brother, Dr. Peter D. Buckland, says simply, “Hope is in action.” What is your action? To what are you called? Not all of us can put our bodies on the line. I can’t stand long enough to take to the streets the way I once did. But I can write to you. Can you ask your family member who voted for Donald Trump what they, your family members, are gaining by that choice? Can you act in love and demand with clarity?
Similarly, if we are to believe, as Theodore Parker wrote, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it turns toward justice, then we must be the ones who bend that arc. It will not sway toward justice, much less peace, on its own.
Right now, news outlets around the country, and for the last two days, have been making false equivalencies between neo-Nazi white nationalist ralliers and those who resist their hate-fueled warmongering. White nationalists have taken to the streets with flags of the enemies of the United States–both the Confederate flag (used expressly in this case as an image of racism and not benign “Southern heritage”) and the Nazi flag.
The President of the United States condemns “bigotry and violence on many sides.”
I just read someone who called Black Lives Matter a hate group and equated BLM’s work around the country with white nationalists who expressly, overtly, hatefully, and aggressively are making it clear that they believe there is no space in their homeland—perhaps “Fatherland” is appropriate here—for anyone other than whites.
White nationalists fear being pushed out., They said it themselves: “You will not replace us.” They fear their growing minority status.
And why might that be?
Could it be because they know in their bones that white supremacy has been the law of the land since before the founding of the nation and that it is unjust?
Could it be because somewhere beneath the hatred they yell into the streets—like the protestations of anti-queer preachers who turn out to be gay themselves—they know that they are afraid?
Could it be because they fear what might happen when those who have had the boot of white oppression on their necks for generations are no longer the minority, not in terms of numbers, and maybe one day, not in terms of power?
The day of white supremacy is waning, thank God. But the throes of a creature in pain, woundedness, and impending death are dangerous. Very dangerous.
Black Lives Matter is not a movement of hatred. It is not a movement threatening to take over the halls of power. It is a movement based on the idea that Black. Lives. Matter. Do they or don’t they? Pick a side and pick it quick. Do they matter?
Don’t let me hear you say, “Yes, but…” Choose a side.
One definition of feminism is as follows: Feminism is based on the radical notion that women are people.
So too with BLM, the Moral Monday movement, Lives of Unitarian Universalism, the Safety Pin Box, and other pro-pluralism organizations. They simply say that Black Lives Matter.
If you come back with something like “But white lives matter too. Or blue lives matter,” I have to ask you why. This is not a zero-sum game. Just because I say that children with leukemia deserve excellent care, that their lives matter, doesn’t mean that people living with AIDS deserve to die in the streets.
If I say I love you, does it mean I love no one else? No. It means I love you in particular, for your particular truth, beauty, and miraculous being.
When the God of the Bible and the Qur’an says over and over and over again that strangers, the poor, the oppressed are to help helped, lifted up, and even that God will tear the mighty from the thrones, how do we read those passages in these times? How do we read Jeremiah, Amos, Luke? How do we read the admonition over and over and over again to take care of one another, to remember that we, too, that the people who rule, too, were strangers in a strange land, needing care and hope and the strong arm of heaven?
In Unitarian Universalism, we say that we affirm the worth and dignity of every person. And the question arises, “How do I affirm the worth and dignity of every person when they do not affirm the worth and dignity of others?”
Again, not a zero-sum game.
Again, I can say, I believe that there is that of God in you, that there is a spark of the Divine that brought you, miracle, into being…and I can say that I believe that flame, that spark, is being obscured by a murky, thick, viscous hatred.
I will not return hate for love. I will not.
But I will call all of us to account. Our actions are those for which we are accountable. And calling you—calling myself!—to account is not the same as hatred. It is not. It is loving attention to the logs in all our eyes.
Where do you stand? Where are your actions, however small? Where are your words, your silences, your willingness to take on the power of the overculture? Remember Margaret Mead’s admonition, and this is something I do believe, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Hope demands that we be thoughtful and committed; it demands this of us. Hope pleads with us. Hope even commands us to become part of that group of committed citizens.
The anniversary of the Voting Right Act just passed. I think of where my parents (they are Boomers) were during those times of unrest. How they thought and marched and worked for peace and justice.
How will we? How will you?
If you have ever asked yourself how you might have acted during the “Civil Rights Era,” now is the time to answer. Now is the time to be counted, to take risks, to put your reputation on the line in the service of the good, the just, the true, and the beautiful.
I am going to try. I will fail and I will try again. Will you join me?
How will be show Ms. Dickinson, may her memory be for a blessing, that Hope does demand something of us. It demands whatever we can give, whenever we can give it.
These are trouble times, my friends, troubled waters. Be of strong heart, and do not waver.