Don’t forget our Toast to the Ancestors on October 29th. More information below!
This edition of Reflections is written in honor of Rev. Judy Clymer Welles, who joined the Wise and Bright Mighty Dead on September 28, 2020, just as she wanted. She went with love, clarity, a brilliant autumn day, family members around her, finishing her obituary and several letters. Oh, and badgering her husband to get a puppy.
In part, because she did not get to vote yet here in Oregon, she wrote from her deathbed to friends in the Purple Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, reminding them to vote, reminding them that because she could not, they’d damned well better. This letter is inspired by her spirit and her admonitions to follow her example: care for the environment, care for her family and friends, and a deep and abiding tenderness for her faith tradition.
So it seems to me that in this season of bananapants – it has not been so long since the first Presidential “debate” in the US, the smoke of the West, and the fires continue – there are a couple of things that folks in the US (and maybe even elsewhere, frankly) might consider doing. And yes, this edition is about politics.
The first thing I wholeheartedly recommend is to curate your media intake very carefully. I know that I read more news that is strictly wholesome for my heart and mind. The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, the BBC, perhaps an article from The Atlantic my well-informed wife remarks on. She pays attention to BIPOC, feminist, sex-worker, and progressive activist Twitter in a way that I cannot imagine doing fruitfully. But she gets information from the people she trusts and she shares that information with me.
And that is the thing. Who to trust? I know that I am in the Facebook bubble much of the time, supporting an industrial giant about whom I have terribly mixed feelings. And yet I also know that Facebook is one of the platforms from which I have to offer what I think is important and useful. And if I have a platform, I feel obliged to use it.
Nevertheless, the project I bring to you today, one of them, is to rest from some of the national news. Look to your local news, and learn more. But rest today from national news, I dare you. (I’m going to try it too!)
Which brings me to the other side of my coin. This may not be your coin, you may not even have the coin to turn, but this is mine.
The Senate. Senate races in Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan, to name a few, are places where Democrats with enough support, could win and help flip the balance of power. Furthermore, supporting their campaigns influences the Presidential race.
Also on this side of the coin, and in some ways most important is this: Learn about your local races and support candidates you believe in. The way the Religious “Right” came to power in the 1980’s was through the influence of school boards. And we are paying the price to this day in Creationism-supporting textbooks, lack of comprehensive sexuality education, and limited funding for public schools. Furthermore, those people who served on school board and local Commissions are now the people in your state assemblies, or even on the national stage.
Who is running for mayor in your city? For school board? For county commissioner? For the board of supervisors? Think about the appointments and influence these people have over day-to-day life. “Down ticket races,” as they are called, are hugely important. They determine land and water use, construction, city planning, the rights of corporations within some jurisdictions, and the welcome and safety of many marginalized people. These races matter.
So yes, I’m saying, let’s be alert, folks. Let’s pay attention to more than the bullying of the Rapist-in-Chief or the gaffes of the former Vice-President. AND I’m saying, let us take care of ourselves. I do not watch the Rapist-in-Chief talk. I cannot, without feeling as though I should double over with nausea. As one of our comrades said, I did not watch the debate in part because it’s not Biden’s strong suit, and in part because I do not watch his opponent.
Give money, time, postcards, and phone calls to races where it matters to you. But please, friends, do not wrap yourselves in the iron maiden of so much news that you cannot help despairing. Talk with your friends, but, as Fr. John O’Donohue reminded us in Reflections of two weeks ago, make it a habit not to stir one another up, but rather to be people of equanimity.
Resist and keep resisting. Do what you can. Throw sand into the gears. And support the people who are daring to wade into the political mess of the US right now. Remember the thousands of career federal employees who are trying their best at NIH and the CDC and NIMH, and OSHA to get their work done under the scrutiny of an administration that is headed by someone I cannot begin to diagnose or understand. Remember them, pray for them, help them when they ask for help.
Know that I love you. Just do your best – turtles and snails move slowly, but they move, and sometimes that’s all we can do or hope for.
Blessings of clear discernment to your hearts –
PS – It feels so strange, after this love letter, to mention our upcoming party, A Toast for the Ancestors, but nonetheless, it’s coming up, and it’s going to be fun! During these times, we can think on our Dead, those who go before us through the veil from our Families of Blood, Choice, and Spirit. On October 29th, 5:30 Pacific time. We will gather to consider the mixed legacy of ancestry, the examples of love and care and the cautionary tales too. With both mirth and reverence, we will make toasts to those we miss, those we didn’t know, and those whose lives are lost in the mists of time.
Feel free to dress up – Hallowe’en is only two days later, after all – and, most important, bring a drink of your choice in a cup filled up to the very top so we can all share in the festivities. Register here!