Affirmation and Reaffirmation

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Friends,

It has been well over a month since I last wrote my Saturday Evening Post. Part of the reason is that I have been traveling with two trips to the east coast for most of a month and our seven year old grandchild was here for an extended visit. So it was a stretch to find my bearings for logistical reasons. But the main reason I have not written is because I could not find my voice in these tumultuous times. I have been consistently writing a version of my Saturday Evening Post for three and a half years now, and the way I have approached it has been to simply sit down on Saturday and wait for the message I am to share. When I have tried this several times over the past month I could not find in my soul anything to say that I considered within my criteria of promoting reconciliation and uplift. My heart has been heavy, even before the election, and deeply saddened since.

There is a time for heavy-heartedness. Life events, both personal and historical, can be and are tragic. It is important to accept that. I often quote Mark Twain who said, “To see the inconsistencies in life, and to tolerate them, is to laugh.” If we are able to indeed tolerate “inconsistencies/ironies/tragedies,” then we can laugh. But there are also times when we sense we cannot or should not tolerate the situation, our response is likely to be the opposite of laughter - sadness, tears, lamentations like the icon of theater, the twin faces, one with a comedic face, the other with sadness. The Trump election, and now the aftermath of appointments for leadership, has had the impact of a barely intolerable deep sadness for me, sadness for all the desperation and perceived neglect that led people to vote for him and sadness for what surely will be a much more dangerous time for not only our nation, but for the whole planet.

So here is where I have come so far. I was fortunate to be able to attend the four day Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) - our national Quaker peace lobby -conference in DC immediately following the election from November 10-14. The Quaker legacy of working uphill for peace and justice has a long and noble history, and that helps when we face yet another time of apparently insurmountable challenges that seem to defeat our vision for achieving a government supporting the common good and peace and justice. Our conference focused on this legacy and we were reminded of the Quaker saying that “way will open.” But we were also mostly as anxious and uncertain about what all this means as everyone else. We were not able to unite behind a minute, for example, that attempted to represent a spirit-led voice in response to the election. Still the strong sense of history and gathered community that FCNL represents was consoling and positive for me and initiated some needed healing.

Personally I am now less and less interested in analyzing the election results and tenor of the Trump presidency, although I will likely to continue to do so. Instead, I am trying to work myself into affirming and reaffirming the nonviolent principles, values, and conscience I have been fostering most of my life as I set my life course for the coming months. I need to tend these as deeply as I can, replant them as needed, water them, so they will be strong enough to withstand the inevitable challenges in the months ahead, especially when there are risks and costs to standing on principles of equality, law, and human sanctity, for example. Will I have the grace and strategic capacity "to work with government where I can, and resist where I must" to quote my congressman’s statement this past week. I intend to be even more clear and convinced of my commitment to addressing poverty, the civill rights and basic needs of the marginalized and the prisoner, for example, and to oppose the profound evil of war as firmly as I can while also supporting the means of peacemaking, diplomacy and reconciliation. I haven’t figured how to formalize my commitments yet, but I think it will begin with journalling and prayer and work into public declarations.

This is enough for this evening. I encourage you to also reflect on how deep you hold your principles of life-giving service and reverence for life. I have faith that we are all bound and interconnected, within a profound Mystery, that ultimately is governed by Love and Truth, and we will need to trust the intrinsic hope that faith provides in the days to come.

Blessingand peace,
Tom